GWG on Health Literacy

Health literacy has been established and recognized as a social determinant of health; addressing health literacy is a mechanism for reducing health and social inequities. The 19th and 20th IUHPE World Conferences for Health Education and Promotion have increasingly included health literacy as a topic addressed in the scientific program. During these conferences, organizational meetings were also were held for participants to work together on the topic of health literacy.

During the 20th World Conference in Geneva, a Resolution was presented to the General Assembly, proposing that IUHPE address health literacy as a focus point in the strategic priorities and long term vision. A specific recommendation was included to establish a Global Working Group on Health Literacy (GWG-HL).

Health Literacy is relevant to achieving the new strategic priorities for IUHPE:

  • Social Determinants of health

  • Non-Communicable Diseases Prevention and Control

  • Health Promotion Systems

  • Health Promotion in Sustainable Development

  • Ongoing operation of the IUHPE (internal)


In addition, it is assumed that active involvement of the IUHPE in health literacy will attract new members that are already involved in health literacy, yet to date have not professionally identified with health promotion.




To initiate and support action, policy and research on health literacy, acknowledging the contribution of health literacy to reducing disparities in the promotion of health and wellbeing, and sustainable development, and to the pursuit of equity within and between countries, in the global context



  • To facilitate the development of, and communicate, health literacy theory, policy and practice at global, international, national and local levels;

  • To enable shared learning between programmes, networks and with relevant professions and sectors, at international and national levels;

  • To ensure that health literacy, as a social determinant of health, is included in global and regional discussions on health promotion systems, reducing health disparities, promoting sustainable development and NCDs;

  • To strengthen the knowledge and evidence bases for measuring and assessing health literacy and applying knowledge within the context of health promotion by promoting evaluation, learning and development;

  • To identify relevant stakeholders that can be engaged for collaborative action, research and policy, build synergies and lead where appropriate , working in partnership with other networks and organizations for promoting the issue of health literacy;

  • To work collaboratively with other GWGs in order to promote integrated and cross-cutting support and action;

  • To develop and implement an action plan for 2012-2013, reflecting all of the above.


Membership (still being finalised): Under Construction 

  • Diane Levin-Zamir, PhD, MPH, MCHES                                         

    Dr. Levin-Zamir is Director of the National Department of Health Education and  Promotion  of Clalit, Israel's largest health service organization,  and lecturer  in health promotion in the Schools of Public Health in Haifa, Tel Aviv and Hebrew Universities. Diane is a summa cum laude graduate of Tufts University in Boston, and earned a MPH  and PhD from the Braun School of Public Health of Hadassah Hospital and  Hebrew University’s Faculty of Medicine in Jerusalem. Diane co-leads the  Global Working Group on Health Literacy of the  International Union of Health Education and Promotion, serves on  the editorial board of the Global Health Promotion Journal and is well as editor of the for building capacity in health promotion.

    Diane specializes in action research in health promotion in community primary care, hospital and  media settings, media health literacy and  measuring health literacy. She led the  Israel National Health Literacy Survey and leads the Israel involvement  the Diabetes Literacy Consortium  of the EU. She specializes in  health promotion among special groups: children and adolescents, elderly, people with chronic conditions, and  health promotion in multi-cultural settings, and is active in promoting comprehensive and sustainable health promotion implementation on national and local levels. She teaches health promotion planning,  evaluation and health literacy in medical, public health and health professionals training frameworks. Diane has published extensively on various aspects of health literacy and health promotion. She is one of the founding members of the Israel Association of Health Promoters and Educators and is an active member of the National Council for Health Promotion  of Israel's  Ministry of Health.


  • Stephan Van Den Broucke (Belgium)

    Professor of Public Health Psychology at the Psychological Sciences Research Institute and the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences of the Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium. Formerly he has held positions of head of research and senior expert at the Flemish Institute for Health Promotion in Brussels (1993-2005), project officer at the Executive Agency for Health and Consumers of the European Commission in Luxembourg (2006-2009), and Associate Professor at the Department of International Health, Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences of Maastricht University, The Netherlands (2009-2010). In these different positions he has coordinated and supervised several national and international research projects in the areas of health promotion planning and evaluation, mental health promotion, health inequalities, capacity building and health literacy, and has authored or co-authored more than 50 peer-reviewed international publications and several books. He is associated editor for Health Promotion International and serves on the editorial board of Psychology & Health, Health Psychology Review and Archives of Public Health. Prof. Van den Broucke is Vice-President of the International Union for Health Promotion and Education (IUHPE), and has served as an expert adviser to the European Commission, the World Health Organisation and the Open Science Foundation on a number of occasions. In addition to his teaching assignment at the Université Catholique de Louvain he also teaches in the Master program of Psychology at the KU Leuven in Belgium and the Université Paris Descartes in France, and has been a guest lecturer at various universities and institutes across Europe and in Latin America. 

  • Gerard Van Der Zanden (the Netherlands)

  • Juergen Peliken (Austria)

    Prof. em. Jürgen M. Pelikan, PhD

    Jürgen M. Pelikan is emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Vienna / Austria and key researcher at Ludwig Boltzmann Institute Health Promotion Research, where he is Director of the WHO-CC Health Promotion in Hospitals and Health Care.

    He got interested in health literacy while directing the European Migrant Friendly Hospital Project. Together with Ilona Kickbusch and Helmut Brandt he initiated the European Health Literacy Survey (HLS-EU), where he was PI for comparative data analysis and reporting of results. In Austria he was directing studies on health literacy of adolescents and of two migrant groups. In the FP7 Diabetes Literacy Project he is PI of WP5: Comparative (cost-)effectiveness of different diabetes self-management education programs.

    He is a co-editor and co-author of WHO´s The Solid Facts: Health Literacy. He is a member of the core group of the GWG Health Literacy of IUHPE and a member of the scientific advisory board of Asian Health Literacy Association (AHLA). He was active in organizing health literacy streams in IUHPE and other international conferences.

    Besides his interest in defining and measuring health literacy in general populations and developing Health Literate Organizations his recent research interests include theory of health (salutogenesis), health promotion, the settings approach especially in health care settings, sustainable hospitals, self-help-friendly hospitals, and applying systems theory in health care organizations.

  • Don Nutbeam (UK)

  •  Irving Rootman (Canada)

    is an Adjunct Professor in the School of Public Health and Social Policy at the University of Victoria and a Visiting Professor in Gerontology at Simon Fraser University. He has been a researcher, research manager, program manager, professor and consultant in the field of health promotion for more than thirty years.  Currently, he is the Co-chair of the Capacity-Building Committee for the Public Health Association of British Columbia as well as the Chair of the Steering Committee for the BC Health Literacy Network. He was a member of the U.S. Institute of Medicine Expert Committee on Health Literacy and Co-Chair of the Canadian Expert Panel on Health Literacy. He has conducted research on Health Literacy and published numerous papers and articles on the topic since 2003. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

  • Linda Shohat (Canada)

  • Deborah Begoray (Canada)

  • Jane Wills (UK)

  • Albert Lee (Hong Kong)

     Richard Osborne (Australia) 

    is the project lead overseeing all aspects of the Ophelia project. He provides the overall intellectual leadership in intervention development, Health Literacy Framework development, and implementation


  •  Mr Roy Batterham (Thailand) 
  • is currently working on health literacy projects in Thailand and elsewhere in Asia. Roy has high level expertise in designing and conducting evaluations for complex programs and the development of tools and measures, and is responsible for the overall design of the OPHELIA project


  •  Kristine Sorensen (The Netherlands)

    is assistant professor at Maasricht University working in the field of European public health and health literacy. She has coordinated the European Health Literacy Project (HLS-EU) and is currently involved in the Diabetes Project supported by the European Commission. She has acted as advisor on health literacy for the World Health Organisation; the European Commission; the European Parliament; the Council of Europe; the European Centre of Disease Control the Standing Committee of European Doctors and she has engaged with the Institute of Medicine in the United States on health literacy. She is among the founding members of the networks Health Literacy Europe, the Nordic Health Literacy Network, the Dutch and German Health Literacy networks as well as the Asian Health Literacy Society. The European Health Literacy project was honoured with the European Health Award for its outstanding social and political impact.

  • Orli Frenkel (Israel)

  • Angela YM Leung, (Hong Kong) PhD, MHA, BN, RN (HK & Australia), FHKAN (Geron)

    Dr. Angela YM Leung is Assistant Professor of the School of Nursing at The University of Hong Kong (HKU), and the recipient of Hartford Fellowship for the 2014 Hartford Geriatric Scholars Program in Intervention Research at Johns Hopkins University. She is also Executive Board member of Asia Health Literacy Association (AHLA).Dr. Leung’s scholarship is dedicated to improving health literacy and older adults’ well-being through multidisciplinary team approach. She has collaborated with scholars at HKU and other universities in schools of nursing, medicine, social work, pharmacy, education, and physical exercise education. She pioneered the application of Bloom’s taxonomy in health literacy assessment and Internet-based interactive strategies in health promotion.

    Acknowledging the uniqueness in communication and culture in Chinese population, her research team has developed instruments for measuring health literacy with Bloom’s taxonomy as the conceptual framework, and developed culturally sensitive health literacy-oriented interventions for patients with diabetes using multimedia approach by audio and pictorial stories. These developments have given researchers and practitioners new tools for implementing evidence-based care to older adults in Chinese communities.

    More information can be found in the website: 

  • Gillan Rowlands (UK)

  • Jo Protheroe (UK)

    Paola Ardiles (Canada, webmaster) 

    Paola Ardiles BSc.(hons) MHSc. has been leading and applying innovative, collaborative and inter-sectoral approaches in health promotion research, policy and practice, to enable a broader understanding of our role and responsibility in promoting health equity and well-being. Paola has participated in the planning and development of local, provincial and national workshops, conferences and community events. She has over 15 years of facilitation experience engaging with diverse audiences ranging from community members, NGO's, health authorities, academics and policy-makers. In September 2012, CMHA-BC awarded Paola with the Dr. Nancy Hall Public Policy Leadership Award of Distinction, for her local, provincial and national work to advance mental health promotion. Paola is a newly appointed Adjunct Professor in Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University, Canada, and is also an active board member of the Public Health Association of British Columbia. In 2013, Paola founded Bridge for Health, a local and global network that aims to foster interdisciplinary collaboration and citizen engagement to promote health and well-being for all. In relation to her work in health literacy, Paola was the founding manager for Canada’s first provincial multi-sectoral health literacy network in the area of mental health and substance use, and has led and supported the development of various health promotion capacity building efforts over the years. Paola was a contributing author of An Inter‐Sectoral Approach for Improving Health Literacy for Canadians (2012) and is currently co-supervising a graduate student who is conducting a youth health literacy research project. More information, including publications and references available at:

  • Evelyn McElhinney (Scotland, webmaster) twitter @gwgiuhpehl

    Evelyn McElhinney is a Nurse Lecturer in the Department of Nursing and Community Heath in Glasgow Caledonian’s School of Health and Life Sciences. Evelyn is a registered nurse teacher and Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. She has an interest in health literacy, and the use of technology in healthcare . She is currently a Doctoral student investigating: (Phase 1) Health literacy skills and practices of people who access health information in 3D social virtual worlds (SVWs) and the influence of physical world health behaviour. (Phase 2) How involvement in 3D SVW communities influences people’s ability to self manage their long term health condition in the physical world, due for completion in 2015. She recently was involved in the Working Group which produced the Scottish Government Action Plan on health Literacy - Making it Easy: A Health Literacy Action Plan for Scotland Evelyn tweets on the group twitter account @gwgiuhpehl (follow us there) and maintains this page 

  • Professor Peter Chang Taiwan)

     Professor Dr. Peter WS CHANG is a medical doctor with master of public health in education and the doctor of sciences degree both from the Harvard University School of Public Health. He has been recognized for his outstanding involvement in global public health by the Royal College of Physicians (FRCP) in Faculty of Public Health since 2011. Peter has been interested in the health literacy researches since his early career in the medical school while studying the perception toward traditional and alternative medicine in healthcare by local communities in Taiwan. He developed serial preventive medicine programs for special disadvantaged citizens throughout several cities in Taiwan since the early 1990s; which also provided health education and evaluation program in several major hospitals. He then started to refocus on health literacy researches in the end of 2012, after the meeting with Prof. Helmut Brand in Taipei and a visit in Maastricht University with Dr. Kristine Sorensen. Supported by the Health Promotion Administration of Taiwan, he launched a national-wide health literacy survey using the HLS-EU tool with more than 3,000 representative samples in Taiwan since 2013. Several manuscripts have been developed from that survey. With the support from European health literacy group, an initiative was developed to coordinate and establish a pan Asia health literacy network. In Nov. 2013, the first Asian Health Literacy Conference was successfully organized in Taipei Medical University with more than 200 scientists from 20 countries participated in the Conference. IUHPE Health Literacy Working Group had helped organize and contribute to the program significantly. In Oct. 2014, the second Asian Health Literacy was held in Shuang- Ho Hospital, with more than 400 scientists from around 40 countries contributed to more than 50 lectures and panels, as well as 30 poster presentations. The Asian Health Literacy Association (AHLA) was established since then, with 40 members and 20 Board Members been elected to serve the association. In the meantime, Professor Chang has been appointed as Secretary General of the AHLA, and the mission is to coordinate health literacy activities world-widely in public health field.

  • Luis Saboga Nunes Luis Saboga Nunes (MA Soc, MPH, PhD)

    Luis Saboga Nunes (MA Soc, MPH, PhD) is a health sociologist who teaches at the National School of Public Health (Universidade Nova de Lisboa) in Lisbon. He holds the chair of Sociology of Health and is also responsible for the development and implementation of several post-graduate courses, including “Smoking Prevention and Cessation” training for health professionals. His research interest has focused on theoretical and evidence-based good practice in public health on health literacy, extensively discussed in the course “Health Paradigms, Salutogenesis and Public Health” that he leads annually. This has been the natural context for the discussion of the salutogenesis paradigm and for its establishment within specific public health interventions where health literacy is at stake. As a researcher and health promoter, he has contributed to the development of several applications in which information and knowledge management are key elements in easing the everyday burden of responsibility for health professionals and also promote citizens’ health literacy. A member of the Portuguese Observatory of Health Systems, his publishing endeavour has concentrated on channelling knowledge from breakthroughs in scientific research into health literacy and on facilitating the assimilation of these innovations by the public domain. Coaching life styles changes has been a major area of activity and implementation. He has been a member of the group that meet in Zurich in 2007 where the foundation for the research of the evaluation of health literacy in Europe was set. He has participated actively in several national and international meetings like for instance the European Health Literacy Conference (Brussels, 2011) where results were presented and discussed following the European Health Literacy Survey project. His contribution to the development of health literacy research has led to the authorized translation and validation to Portuguese of the European Health Literacy Survey HLS-EU-PT, and he is now concentrated on strengthening the Portuguese network for the promotion of health literacy  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

  • Andrew Pleasant (USA)

  • RV Rikard (USA)

  •  Stefania Velardo (Australia)

    is an Associate Lecturer in the School of Health Sciences, Flinders University, South Australia. She teaches in the areas of health promotion and health sociology. Her doctorate, which is currently under examination, explored the topic of children’s health literacy, using a sample of 38 children aged 11-12 children living in low socio-economic region of South Australia. This qualitative research employed complementary social constructionist and socio-ecological frameworks to specifically address questions around the construction of children’s health literacy, by exploring the ways in which children access, understand, evaluate, and use nutrition information in their everyday lives. This study also considered media health literacy by exploring the participants’ responses to several Australian food-oriented television advertisements.

    Stefania is passionate about qualitative research methods that capture children’s perspectives on matters relating to nutrition, physical activity and health. She is an advocate of the use of in-depth qualitative research to elicit descriptive accounts of health literacy, on the basis that these methods can provide rich data about diverse sociocultural factors that influence health-related information seeking and decision making. Stefania is an active member of the Flinders University Sport, Health and Physical Education Research Centre. She is the recipient of an Australian Postgraduate Award, and is one of 10 early career researchers elected by the Australian Research Council to participate in the Global Young Scientists Summit in Singapore, 2015.

  • Graham Kramer (Scotland) GP, Annat Bank Practice and National Clinical Lead for Self Management and Health Literacy, The Scottish Government

    Dr Graham Kramer has been a GP at Annat Bank Practice, in Montrose, Tayside for the last 19 years. He has had a strong interest in the primary care management of people living with long term conditions and the challenge of delivering person-centred care and supporting self-management. In 2004 he had a sabbatical in New Zealand studying a postgraduate diploma in General Practice. 

    Since 2011 he has been working part-time with Scottish Government, within the Person Centred Health and Care Team as National Clinical Lead for Self-management and Health Literacy. His work has been looking at ways healthcare and polices can support and enable people with long term conditions  to have more confidence, understanding, knowledge and skills to be in the driving seat of their health and care. His work in Scottish Government has helped develop a programme of action to address health literacy within NHS Scotland.


Defining and characterizing membership

  • As a GWG, it is intended that the group's activity reflect the global nature of the IUHPE. As such, the group will strive to have representation from all regions of IUHPE.

  • Membership in the GWG-HL can include members from IUHPE and non-member experts in HL.

  • Non-IUHPE members of the GWG are potential members of the IUHPE; in time it is hoped that an increasing proportion of GWG-HL members become active members of IUHPE.

  • In order to facilitate management of group progress, a core-group/steering committee within the larger GWG will be established with representation from all IUHPE regions.


Expectations from members

In general, the group members will be expected to contribute to defining the IUHPE global strategy and priorities on health literacy. Towards this end, more specifically they will be asked to:

  • participate in electronic or conference call meetings on a regular basis;

  • stimulate collaborative ideas and action among various regions and sub-networks;

  • bring regional/sub-network input into the global discussions to ensure that all interests and specificities are taken into account.


Twitter - we now have a twitter account follow us to keep up to date with news from the group - @gwgiuhpehl 

Second International Conference on Health Literacy

October 6-8, 2014, Taipei, Taiwan

Opening remarks

Stephan Van den Broucke

Vice President, International Union for Health Promotion and Education


Health literacy is gaining critical importance in health promotion. When the concept was introduced in public health in the 1970s, it was mainly concerned with health care services, and its focus was limited to the ability to handle words and numbers in a medical context. But over the years the meaning of health literacy has expanded to include more complex and interconnected abilities, and the concept has found its way into public health and health promotion. In addition to the already significant body of literature linking low health literacy to decreased medication adherence, poor knowledge of disease, poor adherence to self-care management, and poor treatment outcomes, there is now an increasing number of studies attesting to the fact that people with lower health literacy are also less likely to engage in health promoting behaviours and to take preventive actions. Modern definitions of health literacy therefore incorporate both the medical and public health perspectives, and account for the knowledge and competences that are required to meet the complex demands of modern society with regard to being ill, being at risk for illness, and staying healthy.

As such, health literacy has become a key construct for health promotion, and receives increasing prominence on health promotion conferences and in health promotion journals. The relevance of health literacy for health promotion is threefold. Firstly, health literacy is a key indicator of the outcomes of health education, which remains an important strategy of health promotion. Secondly, health literacy acts as a leverage to create and strengthen health literacy–friendly settings that are easy to navigate and empower people to make sound health decisions in the context of everyday life: at home, in the community, at the workplace, in the health care system, and in the educational system. And thirdly, health literacy can help to explain the health disparities among groups within populations.

As the global professional organization for health promotion and education, the International Union for Health Promotion and Education supports actions to improve health literacy. In line with the recommendations recently issued by the European Regional Office of WHO, actions to strengthen health literacy need to consider different levels: to ensure better health communication through establishing health literacy guidelines; to create and strengthen health literacy–friendly settings; and to develop policies for health literacy at the local, national and international level. While the health sector can lead by example through the creation of health care settings that empower patients and promote and support health literacy, politicians, professionals, civil society and the private sector should all contribute to addressing the health literacy challenges. At the same time, a continued investment remains necessary to document health literacy and understand the causal pathways of how poor health literacy influences health and health disparities.


These topics are all on the agenda of the Second International Conference on Health Literacy and Health Promotion. The International Union for Health Promotion and Education is proud to support this Conference, which doubtlessly will contribute to the important and timely task of providing research support to addressing low health literacy in the population. 

Summary from Professor Peter Chang from Taiwan - Second International Conference on Health Literacy

 Professor Peter Chang has provided a video summary of the conference. 

Click link below for video summary

Second International Conference on Health Literacy Taiwan