Development of the Organisational Health Literacy Responsiveness (Org-HLR) self-assessment tool and process

BMC Health Serv Res. 2018 Sep 6;18(1):694. doi: 10.1186/s12913-018-3499-6.


Background: The World Health Organization describes health literacy as a critical determinant of health and driver of citizen empowerment and health equity. Several studies have shown that health literacy is associated with a range of socioeconomic factors including educational attainment, financial position and ethnicity. The complexity of the health system influences how well a person is able to engage with information and services. Health organisations can empower the populations they serve and address inequity by ensuring they are health literacy responsive. The aim of this study was to develop the Organisational Health Literacy Responsiveness self-assessment tool (Org-HLR Tool), and an assessment process to support organisations with application of the tool.

Methods: A co-design workshop with health and social service professionals was undertaken to inform the structure of the tool and assessment process. Participants critiqued existing self-assessment tools and discussed the likely utility of the data they generate. A review of widely used organisational performance assessment tools informed the structure and self-assessment process. The Organisational Health Literacy Responsiveness (Org-HLR) Framework (with seven domains/24 sub-domains) provided the structure for the assessment dimensions of the tool. The performance indicators were drawn from raw data collected during development of the Org-HLR Framework.

Results: Twenty-two professionals participated in the workshop. Based on the feedback provided and a review of existing tools, a multi-stage, group-based assessment process for implementing the Org-HLR Tool was developed. The assessment process was divided into three parts; i) reflection; ii) self-rating; and iii) priority setting, each supported by a corresponding tool. The self-rating tool, consistent with the Org-HLR Framework, was divided into: External policy and funding environment; Leadership and culture; Systems, processes and policies; Access to services and programs; Community engagement and partnerships; Communication practices and standards; Workforce. Each of these had 1 to 5 sub-dimensions (24 in total), and 135 performance indicators.

Conclusions: The Org-HLR Tool and assessment process were developed to address a gap in available tools to support organisations to assess their health literacy responsiveness, and prioritise and plan their quality improvement activities. The tool is currently in the field for further utility and acceptability testing.

Keywords: Access; Health literacy; Health literacy responsiveness; Health service improvement; Health systems; Self-assessment.

MeSH terms

  • Health Literacy*
  • Health Services / standards
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Humans
  • Process Assessment, Health Care
  • Quality Improvement
  • Self-Assessment*
  • Social Work