|Abstract||The increasing interest in health literacy is due to the universally recognized assumption that
health and knowledge are crucial assets for well being, both for individuals and the community.
Health literacy, is no longer a negligible health determinant. It goes beyond the ambit of education,
pertains to community development through continuous and dynamic interaction with the social
environment, and is strategically functional to the pursuit of equity, appropriateness and adequacy
in health care services.
In short, health literacy is an empowerment strategy bent on the improvement of people’ s attitude
to accessing health information and using it effectively. At the same time, it is an instrument that
policy makers can use to optimize health promotion, to gain better health outcomes and to cut
costs in the health care system.
Our study confirms that a limit in most research is that health literacy is measured only in patients
in the context of their relation with health professionals, whereas a “systemic vision” is sorely
lacking whereby a health care organization can evaluate its capacity to deliver a service and put in
place managerial and communicational mechanisms that encourage interaction between the
patient/client and the health organization as a whole.
Consequently, the present study aims to investigate the attitude of health organizations when
implementing policies and at the same time, to activate procedures and approaches that promote
adequate levels in patient/client health literacy and a greater extent of health literacy in the
Assuming the hypothesis that the Italian health care system is unable to cope with policies to
improve health literacy, and in addition, postulating that Italian health organizations are quite
unaware of the issue, we attempt to show how the health system in Italy is still far from effectively
activating health literacy pathways, since health outcomes seem to be correlated to “informal
procedures” carried out by health professionals as opposed to formal engagement on the part of
health organizations combined with a commitment towards literacy in patients.
Our research verifies that utility, quality and effectiveness in health literacy practice can only be
maximized if health organizations adopt a systemic vision and pervasive policies. On the contrary,
all the efforts made by health care professionals in Italy in order to put in place informal
procedures are thwarted, since besides not being mainstreamed within the organization; they are
sporadic and not concretized into routines; in terms of management, they come up against the
lack of organizational commitment and clash with a non-attitude in the community on health
Only if health organizations acquire awareness and put in place effective processes of change, can
we envisage, through the lens of health literacy, more equity, better outcomes, lower costs: in a
word, better quality public health. [edited by Author]||en_US