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Health Literacy Staff Guide

Better health through shared understanding.


Melbourne Health culture

Organisational culture is defined as the shared values and beliefs that guide how organisations’ members approach their work and interact with others. A key determinant in the development and maintenance of a high performance organisational culture is leadership1. Making health literacy integral to the mission, structure and operations of organisations like Melbourne Health is critical.

For Melbourne Health to succeed in engaging all of our community in building health literacy, a shared understanding and focus on health literacy needs to become “the way we do things around here” (culture) and for this to be embedded in all of our practices. 


Actions for Partnering

 Health organisations are complex and are often unfamiliar to our community. MH strives to interact with people so that they can easily access its services, navigate ways within and through its services and feel safe and accommodated for. Clear communication enables them to understand all aspects of their care.

Melbourne Health communicates with people in a variety of ways: verbally (e.g. conversations), in writing (e.g. letters, brochures and posters), visually (e.g. maps, signs, pictures) and through evolving technologies (e.g. internet websites, social media and videos). It is essential that all these forms of communication provide accurate, clear and easy-to-follow information. Optimal communication ensures that people are listened to, respected and supported to understand their health care needs and to make decisions about their health.


Skilled Health Care Teams

Health care providers, as individuals and within teams, have critical roles in aligning healthcare interventions with peoples’ wishes. They need to know ‘who’ their patients, consumers, carers and families are and to have the skills and judgement to engage patients and consumers in their own care, to the extent that they are able to or wish to, at that time. This includes being able to identify and support patients’, consumers’ and carers’ needs and their capacities for comprehension and decision-making and to provide adequate opportunities for clarification, questioning and for sharing concerns.

Health care providers require organisational support in the form of information and training as well as enough time for reflection and discussion, and to improve their skills


Understanding Individuals

To be a person-centred organisation, Melbourne Health needs to be respectful of and responsive to, the preferences, needs and values of people in its community. It is important to understand and respect the ‘whole person’, necessarily shaped by their cultural, family and other influences and beliefs. Relationships based on trust and respect, provide the context within which optimal shared-decision making and engagement occurs.


Engaged Consumers

Consumer engagement is essential to build the health literacy capacity of individual patients, consumers, carers and families to engage in health care and for health services to better assist and support them. Successful consumer engagement has been defined as “actions individuals must take to obtain the greatest benefit from the health care services available to them 2 . Engaging patients, consumers and carers to assist in the understanding of information being provided to them is critical for optimal health outcomes.


1Schneider, B. & Barbera, K.M. (Eds.) (2014). ‘The Oxford Handbook of Organizational Climate and Culture’. New York: Oxford University Press.The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care,>

2 Koh, H.K., Brach, C., Harris, L.M. and Parchman, M.L. (2013). ‘A Propsed ‘Health Literate Care Model’ Would Constitute A Systems Approach to Improving Patients’ Engagement in Care’. Health Affairs 32(2) p. 357 - 367

Health Literacy Framework - iPolicy link (requires RMH log in)