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Health literacy and health education fostering participation and improving women’s and men’s health


EU learning partnership

Project summary

Recent initiatives such as the first European Health Literacy Survey emphasized the relevance of advancing health literacy in all member states. Health literacy and health education are the prerequisites for patients and citizens to fully participate in health care and to communicate on eye level with their health professionals. Health literacy plays a key role in overcoming health inequalities caused by social determinants of health.

This learning partnership fostered health literacy as an important part of life long and continuous education.

Four face to face meetings within the respective countries brought together patient representatives and experts from adult education organizations, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), public health and health care institutes from four European countries working on health literacy und health education. The meeting in Copenhagen in April 2012 additionally provided the opportunity to participate in the First European Conference on Patient Empowerment.

The learning partnership helped to increase participants’ knowledge and competencies on health literacy as a central issue in lifelong learning. It allowed participating practitioners, researchers and advocacy groups to exchange and discuss their understanding of health literacy and health education as well as to get to an in-depth insight into programs addressing health literacy across Europe. The dialogue also included challenges and strategies advancing health literacy on the respective national levels with colleagues, compare approaches and find solutions.

Laufzeit: August 2011 bis Juli 2013

Coordinator and project partner
Frauengesundheitszentrum, Women´s Health Center
Christine Hirtl, Sylvia Groth
Project partners
Careum, Zurich, Switzerland, Istituto Superiore di Sanità,Rome, Italy, Komiteen for Sundhedsoplysning (Danish Agency for International Education), Copenhagen, Denmark
Project duration


This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This website reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

Meetings and results

Graz, November 2011
The first meeting, whose topic was “Health literacy and health education”,  was aimed at getting to know each other, by the presentation of each organization activities in these fields. The health literacy status in the partnering countries was deeply discussed, together with the role that each organization plays to foster health literacy and health education in its country. Examples of public health campaigns and interventions addressed to citizens were examined by the participants, together with possible evaluation methods of such initiatives.


Copenhagen, April 2012
The second meeting  focused on “Training programs for patients and general public”. Each country presented the initiatives developed, e.g. training programs for young people on the subject of substance abuse and alcohol drinking; a women health training program; a training program on orphan drugs targeted to patients’ associations and families of patients with rare diseases. Different training methods used by participants of different countries were compared and analyzed.


Zürich, November 2012
The third meeting’s topic was “Health information and guidelines available on the Internet”. A broad discussion took place about the potentials and challenges of (online) health information, quality criteria for evaluating health information and the role of the private sector. Furthermore partners learned from each other’s activities in providing health information (apps, brochures, workshops, health portal) and in searching information for guideline development.


Rome, April 2013
The fourth meeting addressed national trends and initiatives for improving health literacy. Participants learned from very different approaches like the “Health 2020” strategy of the Swiss Federal Council providing a solid base to foster health literacy and active patients´ roles in health care, Italy’s broad evidence and methodically diverse campaigns, Austrian’s process of developing health goals one goal being health literacy, Denmark measuring health literacy for the first time or the united kingdom’s integrated model.


Paper for Presentation of the Learning Partnership on the EAHIL 2012 Conference – Health information without frontier, Instituto Supersiore di Sanità’s, July, 2012, UCL, Brussels, Belgium



About the partners

Careum, Zurich, Switzerland
Dr. Jörg Haslbeck, Hans Gut
Careum is an independent Swiss Foundation located in Zurich. Its main objective is to promote education in the health care sector by providing support and inspiration for the systematic development and establishment of education and training in this area in the future. Since 2010, Careum aims, in cooperation with national and international partners, to strengthen patient education for the chronically ill and their significant others and to make it part of health care and training in the long term.
Careum will host a meeting and help in the dissemination of the programme outcomes and learning.

Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Rome, Italy
Dr. Maurella Della Seta, Prof. Enrico Garaci
The Istituto Superiore di Sanità is the leading technical and scientific body of the Italian National Health Service. Its activities include research, control, training and advising in public health. It also serves as a major national clearing-house for technical and scientific information on public health issues. The ISS Documentation Service has the task of retrieving 
online biomedical, chemical and toxicological information. It is the National Reference Center for MEDLARS (PubMed) and organizes training courses on the scientific information resources available on the Web and on other electronic media, addressed to the National Health Service personnel and to patient associations. It develops and manages websites and databases.
In this Partnership ISS Documentation Service will coordinate and organize a workshop on health information and guidelines available on the Internet and help disseminating the results.

Komiteen for Sundhedsoplysning (The Danish Committee for Health Education), Copenhagen, Denmark
Ingrid Nilsson, Charan Nelander,
The Danish Committee for Health Education was founded in 1964 and is a non-profit non-governmental organization with close working relations with public authorities like the Ministry of Health, the National Board of Health and private organizations in the health field. The membership organizations are primarily professional associations in the health field and the associations of county councils and local authorities.
One of our main activities is developing and running health training programmes with the aim of giving people the skills to manage their health on a day to day basis. Programmes are delivered by trained volunteers most of whom have long term health conditions and disabilities themselves. We work across all social sectors and in close cooperation with the local communities. The Danish Committee for Health Education will write the final report and help in the dissemination of the programme outcomes and learning.

The Women’s Health Center is a nonprofit and non-governmental organization located in Graz, Austria. Since 1993 we call attention to a diverse range of pressing women’s health issues, especially those ignored or under-attended by health care providers and politics. Our mission is to empower women and girls in all stages of life and within the range of women’s health needs (individual level). We put women’s health on the political agenda through advocacy, education and lobbying for adequate health structures for women and girls and equal participation of women and men within health care and society (structural and political level). We especially focus on social determinants influencing health on a large scale such as education, living and work conditions, the role of women in society.
The Women’s Health Center is one of the few players having started activities in improving health literacy in Austria. It provides independent patient information, counseling and a 5-day Advanced Capacity Building Training Program for consumers, patients, counselors and self help group members in Austria.
The women’s Health Center coordinates this project Health literacy fostering participation and improving health, hosts one meeting and evaluates the project.


Autorin: Rita Obergeschwandner, 23.06.2014