There are 5 core components to comprehensive health literacy1. These components are:

  1. Theoretical knowledge - involves an ability to outline, list, name, or describe health-related issues, principles, concepts, and models. Health is understood as multidimensional (various components, socio-ecological structure) and multidisciplinary.
  2. Practical competencies - refers to students’ abilities to apply theoretical knowledge about health in practice.  They may be specific health-related competencies (e.g. healthy eating, improvement of mental health) or more general skills relevant also in health context (e.g. information seeking skills). Practical competencies can be developed through practical hands-on exercises in or out of the classroom and by offering students opportunities to practice these skills.
  3. Critical thinking skills - assumes the ability to treat knowledge as dynamic and uncertain and adopting explorative attitudes towards the world. Health topics should be investigated from various perspectives whilst searching for logical connections, solving problems, evaluating the validity of health information, and using strategies such as mind-mapping, problem-solving or collaborative ranking, and listing.
  4. Self-awareness is also part of health literacy. It can be developed by the reflection of a health topic from the perspective of one’s personal life and insight into one’s own wishes, preferences, strengths, weaknesses, values, and attitudes to this topic. Self-awareness is crucial for self-management, and it can be developed through self-awareness that can be developed through creating learning experiences where students reflect on the content from the perspective of their personal lives and critically examine one’s own way of thinking and behaving.
  5. Citizenship competencies - ability to act in an ethically responsible, to participate democratically in promoting the collective good, and to engage in a dialogue involving different arguments in relation to a health topic. Health-related citizenship in schools involves students thinking beyond their personal perspective, considering the consequences of their actions on others and the world, and being able to participate in actions that develop the ability to work with others, to respect varying views about the possibilities of achieving or maintaining good health.

    1. Paakkari, L., & Paakkari, O. (2012). Health literacy as a learning outcome in schools. Health Education, 112(2), 133-152.

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