Press release

Hertie School research project to bolster health literacy in Germany

For the first time ever, the health literacy of Germans will be bolstered via a National Action Plan.

Berlin, May 13, 2016 – For the first time ever, the health literacy of Germans will be bolstered via a National Action Plan, to be developed through a joint research project at the and the University of Bielefeld. Under the direction of Klaus Hurrelmann (Hertie School), Doris Schaeffer and Ullrich Bauer (Bielefeld) and Kai Kolpatzik (AOK Bundesverband), the project is planned to be completed over the course of two and a half years, under the patronage of the Federal Minister of Health, Hermann Gröhe, with funding from the Robert Bosch Foundation. Following the example of health literacy initiatives in other countries, German-based experts from varying disciplines will develop concrete recommendations for improving health literacy in Germany.

The project will focus on the study "Health Literacy in Germany" by Doris Schaeffer, which is being presented today. Schaeffer’s study reveals that more than half of the German population (54%) lack the relevant health information and skills needed to cope with the everyday demands of health preservation. Properly understanding one’s own personal health and accessing information on appropriate care and support requires significant effort, finds Schaeffer. As such, people with low health literacy often suffer from subjectively mediocre to poor health conditions. Additionally, Schaeffer found that low levels of health literacy appear most commonly within low-income and immigrant segments of the population, as well as among the elderly. 

The action plan aims to formulate a comprehensive and coordinated strategy to promote health literacy among the German population, and to increase opportunities for accessing health literacy information among all citizens, regardless of their socioeconomic background. Particular areas of consideration for the research project are health education for children, developing group-specific, targeted information utilizing the internet as communication mechanism, training programmess for doctors and nurses, as well as the development of a user-friendly interface for conveying health care information. The National Action Plan Research Project seeks to intensify research in the area of health literacy in Germany, as the country has yet to develop sufficient tools and resources to meet the needs of its citizens.