Towards Equity and Health Literacy

James A. Smith, Sarah Ireland

Research output: Contribution to journalEditorial

13 Citations (Scopus)


The term “health literacy” has grown in popularity over the past few decades. While it is used widely in national and global health contexts, health literacy continues to mean different things to different people. Health literacy has its origins in education, but surfaced more steadily in health education and health promotion scholarship throughout the 1980s and 1990s. At that stage the concept was pretty basic – if you improve an individual's functional literacy, then the potential to improve individual health outcomes will follow. It was a simple, but logical argument. However, more articulated definitions started to emerge in the late 1990s. Clearly, these early definitions were focused on individuals. For example, the World Health Organization asserted that:

Health literacy represents the cognitive and social skills which determine the motivation and ability of individuals to gain access to, understand and use information in ways which promote and maintain good health, p10
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-4
Number of pages2
JournalHealth Promotion Journal of Australia
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • health literacy
  • health education
  • health promotion
  • equity


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