"A tapestry of solutions to promote health equity."

The Health Literacy Tapestry


1  – Health Literacy Threads

The Health Literacy Tapestry illustrates the beautiful, diverse and multidimensional aspects of health literacy. Health literacy is the “use of a wide range of skills that improve the ability of people to act on information in order to live healthier lives.” (Reference: The Calgary Charter on Health Literacy http://www.centreforliteracy.qc.ca/sites/default/files/CFL_Calgary_Charter_2011.pdf)

This conceptual model incorporates six interwoven threads that represent the weaving of each person’s (patient or health care professional) life experiences and behaviors. The six threads are 1) media and marketplace; 2) health knowledge and experience; 3) demographics; 4) overall health status; 5) community; and 6) social, spiritual and cultural influences.

The health literacy skills associated with each of the threads may be enhanced or diminished over time depending upon life experience and the specific health context and setting.

2 – Health Literacy Domains

The three main domains of health literacy are oral (spoken) communication, written communication and environmental communication, which includes access and navigation.

3  – Partnership: Receiving Care and Providing Care 

Health literacy is not only dependent upon an individual’s skills in a specific context. It is a partnership… and how health care professionals and systems present information and provide services makes a difference too.

As illustrated by the overlapping circles, each person in the relationship may bring misconceptions and unconscious biases to the encounter. Low health literacy is of great magnitude as only 12% of the U.S. population has proficient health literacy skills. We must collaborate to be certain that health information and services are provided in a manner that meets the needs of everyone.

4 – Tapestry Borders 

The borders of the Health Literacy Tapestry begin with engagement, activation and empowerment. Empowerment relates to providing patients with understandable and actionable information and education that facilitates their role in the partnership. When patients are empowered they will be more likely to engage in shared decision-making and become active partners in their health management.

Health literacy strategies can enhance patient engagement. The role of health care professionals in this ongoing partnership, includes evaluating how successful they continue to be at clearing communicating health information that meets the patients needs by always incorporating the teach back method.

The remaining border represents the ultimate goal in this partnership. Ultimately, enhancing a person’s health literacy skills fosters empowerment, engagement, and enhanced health outcomes and over all well-being.

The Health Literacy Tapestry represents the multi-dimensional, dynamic, complex context of health literacy upon empowerment and engagement across a person’s life span and across a variety of health care settings.