What's in a name? An overview of organisational health literacy terminology

Elizabeth Meggetto, Bernadette Ward, Anton Isaacs

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Organisational health literacy (OHL) is a relatively new concept and its role in improving population health outcomes is gaining recognition. There are several terms being used in relation to OHL but there is no consensus about the definition of OHL nor agreement on a single approach to its application within health services. This contested space continues to create discussion and debate between health literacy researchers worldwide. Increasingly, health service accreditation standards are moving towards including OHL and so services need to clearly define their roles and responsibilities in this area. Inherent in this is the need to develop and validate quantifiable measures of OHL change. This is not to say it needs a 'one-size-fits-all' approach but rather that terminology needs to be fit for purpose. This paper reviews the literature on OHL, describing and contrasting OHL terminology to assist practitioners seeking OHL information and health services clarifying their roles and responsibilities in this area. What is known about the topic? Organisational health literacy (OHL) is a new and emerging field. Currently there is no agreed definition or approach to OHL. As a result there is a large number of terms being used to describe OHL and this can make it difficult for practitioners and health services to understand the meanings of the different terms and how they can be used when seeking OHL information and its application to health service policy. What does this paper add? This paper provides an overview of 19 different OHL terms currently in use and how they apply in a range of health service contexts. What are the implications for practitioners? This paper provides practitioners with an overview of OHL terms currently in use and how they can be used to seek information and evidence to inform practice or develop health service OHL policy. This will allow health services to ensure they can clearly define their roles and responsibilities in OHL for accreditation purposes by ensuring that terminology use is fit for purpose. Lastly, the paper provides an inventory of terminology to be used when searching for evidence-based practices in OHL. This ensures all relevant papers can be captured, leading to robust and thorough reviews of the evidence most relevant to the OHL area of focus.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberAH17077
Pages (from-to)21-30
Number of pages10
JournalAustralian Health Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • health literacy environment
  • health-literate organisation
  • organisational health literacy responsiveness

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