What Are The Two Components Of Health Literacy?

Understanding the Two Components of Health Literacy

Health literacy is a fundamental skill that empowers individuals to make informed decisions about their health and well-being. It encompasses various aspects, but two components stand out as crucial pillars of health literacy. By understanding these components, individuals can enhance their ability to navigate the healthcare system, comprehend medical information, and make informed choices for better health outcomes.

1. Functional Health Literacy

Functional health literacy refers to an individual’s basic reading, writing, numeracy, and comprehension skills in the context of healthcare. It involves the ability to understand and use health-related information effectively to make informed decisions. Key elements of functional health literacy include:

Reading and Comprehension: This component involves the ability to read and understand health-related materials, such as instructions on medication labels, medical forms, and educational resources. It includes the capacity to extract relevant information, identify key concepts, and comprehend the implications for one’s health.

Numeracy: Numeracy skills are essential for understanding and using numerical information related to health. This includes interpreting measurements, understanding dosages, calculating nutritional values, and comprehending health statistics. Numeracy skills enable individuals to make accurate judgments and choices based on quantitative information.

Information Retrieval: Functional health literacy also involves the ability to locate and access reliable health information. This component includes knowing how to navigate healthcare resources, use digital tools effectively, and identify credible sources of information. Individuals with strong information retrieval skills can find accurate and relevant health information to support their decision-making.

2. Interactive Health Literacy

Interactive health literacy focuses on an individual’s ability to actively engage with healthcare professionals, ask questions, and participate in shared decision-making. It involves effective communication and collaboration between patients and healthcare providers. Key elements of interactive health literacy include:

Communication Skills: Interactive health literacy requires individuals to communicate their health concerns, preferences, and needs effectively. This includes expressing their symptoms, asking relevant questions, and providing accurate information about their medical history. Good communication skills foster a collaborative relationship between patients and healthcare providers.

Shared Decision-Making: In interactive health literacy, individuals are encouraged to actively participate in decisions related to their health. This involves discussing treatment options, understanding risks and benefits, and expressing personal values and preferences. Shared decision-making ensures that healthcare choices align with individual needs and promotes a sense of ownership and empowerment.

Advocacy: Interactive health literacy also encompasses the ability to advocate for oneself and others in healthcare settings. This involves speaking up for one’s rights, seeking clarification when needed, and actively participating in the management of one’s health. Advocacy skills help individuals navigate complex healthcare systems and ensure they receive appropriate care.


Health literacy consists of functional and interactive components that are essential for individuals to make informed decisions about their health. By improving their functional health literacy, individuals can better understand health information and navigate healthcare resources. Developing interactive health literacy enables effective communication with healthcare providers, active participation in decision-making, and self-advocacy. Together, these two components empower individuals to take control of their health and well-being.