Over the last decades health literacy has gained renewed attention in health promotion health education and health policy making. According to the European Commission’s health strategy “Together for Health” in 2007, health literacy is a key factor for reducing health inequalities within the European Union. Further, it has to be assured that interventions are designed to mitigate the effects of low health literacy, and sustainably support the development of health literacy skills, healthy behaviours and lifestyles.

The translation of the composite term health literacy into German language seems somehow very challenging. Some would argue that it has such specific epistemological characteristics in the English language with no German language counterpart making health literacy untranslatable. However, translations of health literacy have arisen to a large extent. A commonly used German term (Gesundheitskompetenzen) restricts health literacy to competences and only transmits parts of its English meaning into the German language. Therefore, within our research consortium we stick to the English version until we develop an adequate translation. The definition developed by the European health literacy project highlights the multiple domains of health literacy. describes health literacy as a resource that is “linked to literacy and entails people’s knowledge, motivation and competences to access, understand, appraise, and apply health information in order to make judgments and take decisions in everyday life concerning healthcare, disease.”

When putting emphasis on children and adolescents, even a broad understanding of health literacy needs to be adjusted to match the specific needs and demands of the young population. Life worlds and lifestyles of children and adolescents are different from adult worlds and lifestyles.

The HLCA consortium will focus on the theoretical and conceptual development of a health literacy understanding that is adjusted to children and adolescents as well as on applied research. The latter will focus on mental health and e-Health literacy, both a condition and a source of communication with high importance for child and youth health development. Capacity building adds to the transfer of research findings to academic training and professional practice. The consortium will target health professionals and professionals who are not formally trained in public health but whose activities impact on child and adolescent health literacy. The added value of cooperating as a consortium lies in enabling a comprehensive and interdisciplinary view on a multi-perspective research (user and provider of health literacy) that aims:

  • to identify different needs (due to e.g. age, gender and social backgrounds) of children and adolescents who use, and of professionals who provide health literacy
  • to frame demands on children’s health literacy over time and of caregivers’ and professionals’ knowledge base on health literacy
  • to provide evidence on the impact of health literacy based strategies on health promotion in childhood and adolescence – to specify recommendations for policy-making areas

In order to strengthen research on health promotion and primary prevention in Germany the
consortium aims:

  • to establish a health literacy network in the German-speaking region and to integrate the German-speaking network into international networks
  • to establish health literacy in education and training programs in Public Health and, moreover, non-Public Health disciplines (e.g. teacher training, majors in social work) and thus broaden the knowledge base in health promotion and primary prevention