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Health Literacy: The Whole Community Approach

Calgary Public Library

Problem Statement

Finding ways to improve the health literacy of citizens, patients and front-line health workers is central to realizing productivity growth in the health sector.


The symposium was framed as a community conversation and focused on increasing the collaborative capacity of the community to provide Albertans with the health information they need to make the best health care decisions.

An initial presentation by the highly regarded T. Scott Murray, Canadian Research Institute for Social Policy, laid out the multifaceted relationship that exists between health and access to appropriate resources and supports. The audience learned about community assets and furthered their understanding of their individual and organizational contributions in the broader context of many local supports.

The planning group included the Calgary Public Library, Literacy Alberta, University of Calgary - Libraries and Cultural Resources and the Southern Alberta Health Libraries Association. Connections made between these groups have already strengthened the ability of libraries to seamlessly support the health care needs of Albertans where ever they find themselves along the health care continuum.

Attendees represented the full spectrum of healthcare providers, researchers, educators, policy makers, information providers, community members and students. One participant, after seeing the statistics, commented on the very real and obvious link between literacy and a successful and healthy life. All participants were surprised to learn that literacy of health care workers is a significant factor in health care provision and in many instances it is the health care profession itself that needs to increase literacy levels.


The Calgary Public Library has visibly demonstrated its role in bringing together all facets of an interest based community and has helped to create an environment of shared responsibility and an increased understanding of the collaborative capacity to affect change.

The presentation underscored the importance of health literacy training and awareness in Alberta as an effective strategy to increase productivity growth in the health sector. Based on the enthusiasm of participants in response to evaluations the planning group is currently organizing the second annual Health Literacy: The Whole Community Approach.