Health literacy encompasses the knowledge, motivations and skills of people to find, understand, judge and apply relevant health information to make decisions in the areas of health promotion, prevention and disease management. It relates to the interplay between individual abilities and skills and the demands people face in these areas.

Health literacy has become a political goal and has gained much attention in the past years. Policy-makers and politicians have become interested in strategies to improve the health literacy of their citizens.

Health Target 3: To enhance health literacy in the population

In 2012, ten health targets for Austria were approved by the Federal Health Commission of Austria and the Austrian Council of Ministers. The ten health targets will be in force until 2032. Overall, they aim at improving the health of all people living in Austria, irrespective of their level of education, income or situation in life.

The health targets are based on a number of guiding principles. The most relevant are “orientation towards health determinants”, “health-in-all-policies” and “promoting health equity”. Therefore the targets take into account the health determinants and policy areas that are most relevant in this respect.

The first European-comparative Health Literacy Survey in 2011 demonstrated a clear need for action in Austria as compared to other European countries. Therefore, the Austrian government devoted one of the ten inter-sectoral health targets to the improvement of population health literacy. In 2014, the Austrian Health Literacy Alliance was founded in order to support implementing Health Target 3.

Health Target 3 sets three priorities:

  1. Improve health literacy-friendliness of the healthcare system
  2. Improve individual health literacy (with focus on vulnerable groups)
  3. Improve health literacy-friendliness of the economic system