Researchers from ten institutions call on German government to bolster health literacy

A red ambulance with sirens blaring rushing down a street in a blur. Photo by Camilo Jimenez via Unsplash.

Need to implement existing National Action Plan (NAP), say Klaus Hurrelmann, Alexander Haarmann and others.

German health literacy remains at a low level, even four years after the creation of a government-sponsored National Action Plan on Health Literacy (NAP) in 2018, write Hertie School public health experts Klaus Hurrelmann, Professor of Public Health and Education, and Alexander Haarmann, postdoctoral researcher at the Hertie School, along with researchers from nine other academic institutions and think tanks in a position paper.

This has “grave consequences” for the population, they write. It hinders health-conscious behaviour, prevention of health risks, and the ability to successfully tackle illness and health issues.

The NAP offers recommendations aimed to make the healthcare system more user-friendly and promote citizens’ health literacy. The 2018 initiative and its results were funded by the Robert Bosch Foundation and the AOK-Bundesverband and endorsed by the Federal Minister of Health.

Four recommendations

The researchers' position paper, "Germany needs more health literacy", outlines four areas the government needs to focus on: addressing all population groups, addressing the health effects of climate change, strengthening digital health literacy, and enabling the population to navigate the healthcare system.

"A number of studies show that Germans have some catching up to do," says Hurrelmann. According to the second Health Literacy Survey Germany (HLS-GER 2) published in 2021, for example, around 60 percent of people living in German have low health literacy, he noted. Compared to the first survey five years ago, the value has even worsened, Hurrelmann said.

"Problems are caused above all by the confusing German healthcare system," Hurrelmann continued. This is where government is needed, he said.

Find the position paper, "Germany needs more health literacy", (in German) here.

Find the National Action Plan on Health Literacy (in German or English) here.

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