Health Literacy

Literacy is more than the ability to read or write. To participate effectively in daily life, people require communication skills, the ability to critically analyze, make use of information and make sound decisions that exert greater control over life events and situations. These skills are needed at home, at school, in the community, at the workplace, in the market place and in the health care system.

Health literacy is the ability to access, understand, evaluate and communicate information as a way to promote, maintain and improve health in a variety of settings across a lifetime.

To be health-literate means to have the capacity, opportunities and support needed to obtain and use health information effectively, to act as informed partners in the care of themselves, their families and communities, and to manage interactions in a variety of settings that affect health and well-being.

Self-evaluation is a key strategy in the development of health literacy. Whenever possible, students should be involved in monitoring and evaluating their own development of knowledge, attitudes, skills and behaviours in all four aspects of healthy living: healthy eating, active living, healthy relationships and healthy practices.

The BC Healthy Living Performance Standards allow students, teachers and parents to assess a student’s progress towards accomplished learning by supporting a health literacy approach in a variety of curricular areas.

The health literacy framework for the healthy living performance standards resulted from more than a year of deliberation, consultation and collaboration with educators, researchers and practitioners from both the education and health sectors.

The creation of the framework included analysis of a variety of national and international documents on assessment and health literacy, examination of B.C. curriculum and policy documents, and was sustained by a committed partnership of the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Healthy Living and Sport to support students’ health through the school setting.

The health literacy framework provides insight into the creation of the healthy living performance standards in the context of both a health literacy and comprehensive school health approach.

Health Literacy Framework

  • Functional health literacy: basic communication of health information, involving accessing, understanding and evaluating information about health
  • Interactive health literacy: development of personal skills regarding health issues, involving decision-making, goal-setting and practices to enhance health
  • Critical health literacy: respecting different cultural, family and religious beliefs in respect to health, and advocating for personal, family and community change that enhances health