Pre-conference: School health literacy: from evidence to policy to practice 

Tuesday 12 November, 13:30 – 17:00 Lisbon time (starting with network lunch at 12:30)

Organised by

EUPHA Health literacy and EUPHA Child and adolescent public health sections. Co-organisers: Technical University of Munich, University of Applied Sciences Fulda, and WHO Collaborating Centre for Health Literacy at TU Munich, Germany, University of Minho, Portugal, Imperial College London, and London South Bank University, United Kingdom   

Contact persons

Orkan Okan, Technical University of Munich, Germany
Catherine Jenkins, London South Bank University, United Kingdom
Sonia Saxena, Imperial College London, United Kingdom   


Health literacy has been acknowledged as a vital concept and tool for public health research, policy, and practice. Low health literacy represents a significant threat to population health and well-being outcomes in the European Region. In addition, inequities in health literacy are widespread within and between countries, with people from socially disadvantaged backgrounds being more likely to have low levels of health literacy. Low health literacy as a risk for disease development and high levels of health literacy as an asset for health development have long been established as key drivers to fuel health policy development in the European Region to address the enhancement of health literacy in individuals, populations, and societies, including entire organizations and systems. To sustain change through preventive action, these policy efforts are critically required and without which the underlying problems will remain.

From a population perspective, most of the research – and the policies as well – address the health literacy of adults, although scholars and practitioners alike have made clear that sustainable health literacy development requires an early-life approach. Ideally, the promotion of health literacy starts in early childhood, continues in preschools and schools, and even should maintained in all adult education settings, including higher education and occupational training. In 2019 and 2020, the International School Health Network (ISHN) and the Schools for Health in Europe Network Foundation (SHE), respectively, published reports and evidence syntheses on school health literacy, highlighting the key role of the entire education sector in helping facilitate the development of health literacy in children and adolescents. Both organizations also made clear that school health literacy requires a whole-of-school approach and a combined bottom-up and top-down approach drawing on participatory action. Since 2013, the World Health Organization has released several reports, policy briefs, and publications on health literacy where they also recommend making health literacy a school topic. Finally, the International Union for Health Promotion and Education has also acknowledged the importance of school health literacy in their position statement on health literacy, which was developed by their Global Working Group on Health Literacy.

A common theme across these publications is the call to the health and education policy sectors to combine efforts and undertake joint action to plan and implement school health literacy strategies. However, as of today health literacy is still largely neglected by both sectors when it comes to adopting it in schools and education. Although school curricula and educational policies provide several entry points for easily including the learning and teaching of health literacy, such as digital and media education, health promotion, health education, climate change, critical thinking, the commercial determinants of health, IT and social media, and even pandemics. While the education sector has not yet acknowledged health literacy to be a topic of interest – and also a topic to be addressed in their own interest to achieve their educational goals through healthier children and teachers –, outside the educational realm schools are widely accepted and considered as the best place in society to allow children to learn about health and acquire health literacy.

While societies and education systems within only slowly join the call for action, the European road to sustaining health literate schools and educational settings has just begun. It represents a long trek ahead of us that requires allocation of resources, endurance, motivated champions, and coordinated action. Attention must be paid to certain barriers and challenges when aiming at tearing down the silos between education and health. Among which are administrative, conceptual, strategic, economic, and scientific challenges the health and education communities will have to recognize and face. Overcoming the obstacles within these grand themes is vital. Only the combined research, practice, and policy efforts from both sectors – education and health – will ensure the success of this so important endeavour.


During this preconference, we want to provide insights from the latest European school health literacy projects and organize working groups to identify key barriers and vital opportunities for implementing health literacy in the school setting. We will focus on three dimensions of school health literacy: (1) critical health literacy, (2) digital health literacy, (3) organizational health literacy. For each of these topics, we will see a keynote presentation addressing conceptual, empirical, and practical aspects and naming key policy challenges. These keynotes will be preceded by two presentations framing the state of the art in relation to school health literacy. There will be ample time to interactively work on these topics within the thematic working groups, which will be followed by a presentation of the summarized key findings on how to overcome barriers and make use of the existing resources the European education systems offer.




Moderator/ Speaker


Opening and welcome

Orkan Okan and Catherine Jenkins (moderators)

Agenda and methodology of the preconference


Introduction presentation

Keynote: Empowering Vulnerable School Communities: The BeE-School Project's (Organizational) Health Literacy Approach and Infodemic Management Strategies

Rafaela Rosario | 10 mins presentation / 5 mins Q&A


Introduction presentation

Keynote: Whole school approaches to creating an active environment for children's physical, social and emotional health. Lessons from the UK

Bina Ram, | 10 minutes presentation / 5 mins Q&A


Setting the Scene

With three back-to-back presentations, this block will set the scene for the working groups and define the three concepts of critical, digital, and organizational health literacy for the school setting:


Critical health literacy in schools

Catherine Jenkins, Section VP, LSBU


Digital health literacy in schools

Kevin Dadaczynski, HFD


Organizational health literacy in schools

Orkan Okan, TUM


Working groups

Critical health literacy

Digital health literacy

Organizational health literacy


Marlene Meyer, Torsten Bollweg, Alexandra Fretian, Catherine Jenkins, Susie Sykes

Lisa Stauch, Denise Renninger, Kevin Dadaczynski

Cara Krudewig, Sophie Rauschmayr, Rafaela Rosario

Modus operandi

The working groups will run for 45 minutes with each participant joining each of the three thematic groups for 15 minutes. The thematic groups will be facilitated by several moderators who will provide three guiding questions in relation to their topic. In the sense of tearing down silos between education and health, the focus will be on overcoming barriers and identifying opportunities to implement these health literacy topics systematically and sustainably in schools, including identifying alternative solutions. After the first 15 minutes, we will go to the 30-minute coffee break and complete the remaining two sessions afterwards.


Coffee and tea break



Working groups


Two speakers from each working group will present the summaries and key findings. Each group will get ten minutes with the possibility of Q&A and discussions.


Outlook and

Catherine Jenkins, Rafaelea Rosario, Orkan Okan, Kevin Dadaczynski

1.       Presenting the WHO Collaborating Centre for Health Literacy

2.       Presenting the International Health Literacy Association

3.       Presenting the EUPHA Health Literacy Section

4.       Presenting the Global Health Literacy Research Network

5.       Presenting the Alliance for Health Literacy in Schools



Catherine Jenkins


The registration fee is EUR 75. Networking lunch and refreshments are included.