King Baudouin Foundation
Health & Wellbeing
Liesbeth Jenné
Philippe Vandenbroeck

A stronger narrative for health literacy


Health literacy entails people’s knowledge, motivation and competences to access, understand, appraise and apply health information. It is increasingly recognized as a crucial determinant for a person’s overall health and quality of life.

Since the topic of health literacy is gaining traction among Belgian policy makers, researchers, healthcare professionals, citizens and clients, an inventory and analysis of the inner workings, the inspirational insights and the innovative plot lines from foreign best practices was deemed highly valuable and relevant.

For the Dr. Daniël De Coninck Fund, the mapping exercise was a part of a broader program aimed at supporting initiatives that reinforce and enhance health literacy in a primary care setting.


shiftN was asked for the selection and analysis of ten innovative foreign good practices that are contributing to enhanced health literacy. The selection started with an extensive literature search, supplemented and fine-tuned in dialogue with specialist organisations and expert researchers.

In selecting an innovative portfolio of cases and practices, a range of inclusion criteria were considered: a sufficient diversity in target-audience, methods and objectives; a clear focus on citizen’s initiatives and on participatory approaches and the availability of demonstratable evidence and impact.

Each of the good practices was presented following the same format, with a synthesis of the key components, a summary of the interventional logic, an assessment of the selection criteria and an inventory of the most important insights. Crucial in this approach, was the mapping and evaluation of each of the practices, based on three conceptual models for health literacy (the model of Sørensen et al., 2012; the model of Cultures & Santé, 2016; the model of McCormack et al., 2016).


The mapping resulted in the publication of the report “Gezondheidsvaardigheden versterken. Leren van tien innovatieve buitenlandse praktijken” [Strengthening health literacy. Learning from 10 innovative foreign good practices] (2018). It illustrates in detail how health literacy is a multi-layered and multi-dimensional concept. As a result, methods to reinforce them come in all shapes and sizes and are wide-ranging in their extent. The report discusses the crucial driving forces, context factors, enablers and barriers and ends with the inventory of eight practical learning and action points.

Based on this mapping exercise and report, shiftN was also involved in the follow-up initiative of the the Dr. Daniël De Coninck Fund. A the start of 2019, the Fund launched a project call aimed at supporting Belgian initiatives, actors and organisations that try to enhance and strengthen health literacy in a primary care setting.

shiftN was responsible for the preliminary screening and selection of the submitted dossiers. We based our assessment on the conceptual models of Sørensen and McCormack and we performed a factor and cluster analysis so we could map and visualize the span, spectrum end depth of all selected initiatives.

Photo by Owen Beard on Unsplash