13. Creating health literate care organizations (Workshop)

Background: Canadians need skills to manage health conditions, navigate the system and apply health information for care decisions. Yet many Canadians have low health literacy, the skills needed to find, use and apply health information, and they may struggle to engage in their care. Low health literacy is associated with numerous health outcomes including mortality, adherence, patient satisfaction and others. Universal health literacy precautions are specific, evidence-based actions that minimize the risk of not understanding for everyone, when it is unclear who may struggle with health information that can be applied in clinical care and program planning.

Overall objective: To highlight health literacy as an opportunity for system transformation; to explore how to embed established health literate care practices and models into organizational approaches.

Ideas to be explored: The workshop will explore health literacy and the challenges people face in healthcare. Using several evidence-based established frameworks including the Universal Precautions Toolkit and the Institute of Medicine’s Attributes of a Health Literate Organization, the participants will explore opportunities for health literacy and quality improvement in care and at organizational levels.

Intended learning outcomes: By the end of the workshop, participants will be able to:

  • Describe health literacy and its impact on health, patient care and engagement
  • Apply health literacy models for organizational change and quality improvement

Originality and innovation: Health literacy is a growing field, with few established hospital-based programs in Canada. Among healthcare leaders and champions, there is an increasing awareness of its impact on patient care and engagement. This workshop will approach the topic with a uniquely Canadian lens and will also provide on-the-ground examples of how health literacy work been implemented in several Canadian organizations.

  • Interaction and audience engagement: This will be a highly interactive workshop, with participants having opportunities to work in pairs and small groups to apply their learning in case studies and by considering their own organizations.
  • Relevance to the conference theme: Healthcare of the future requires patients to be engaged in their care. Patients must increasingly implement and manage their care at home, often using technologies such as health trackers, remote monitoring and appointments, and others. In the future, we will also increasingly rely on patients to understand the implications of big data and personalized medicine. Health literacy skills are a critical component of patients being able to understand and act on this information. By considering health literacy proactively, leaders and organizations will be better able to engage with patients to partner in care and plan for system transformation.

Practical application of learning: Participants will work with several tools during the session and will have dedicated time to consider how these apply to their work and organizations. In addition, participants will receive a workbook with resources for future learning on health literacy, such as e-learning opportunities, that they can use directly and share with others in their home organizations.


Farrah Schwartz – University Health Network

Sophia Wong – University Health Network

Anna Sottile – University Health Network




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