About M-POHL


M-POHL builds upon WHO´s Health Literacy: The solid facts and the first European Health Literacy Survey (HLS-EU) (2009-2012) which found that an average of 47% of the citizens in the 8 participating countries had limited health literacy. Subsequently, more and more countries set out to measure and improve health literacy. Recommendations called for regular comparative health literacy surveys in Europe in as many countries as possible.

HLS Survey
Source: Health Literacy: The Solid Facts, p. 16


Inspired by a letter from HLS-EU scientists to the ministers of health of Austria, Germany, and Switzerland in 2016, the ministers of these countries, together with their colleagues from Luxembourg and Liechtenstein (Quintet countries), made a joint commitment to support the establishment of regular health literacy surveys in Europe. They implemented a working group to further explore the best way forward and came up with the idea of an action network under the umbrella of the WHO European Region, which received strong support from its European Health Information Initiative. 

The inaugural meeting of the resulting M-POHL network took place in Vienna, Austria, in February 2018, followed by a second network meeting in Berne, Switzerland, in August 2018. The 68th meeting of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe (September 2018 Rome, Italy) hosted a technical briefing on health literacy measurement in the WHO European Region. 

Vision & aims

The vision of M-POHL is to enhance health literacy in the WHO European Region by ensuring the availability of high-quality and internationally comparative data to support evidence-based political decisions and targeted practice interventions. As described in its Concept Note and the Vienna Statement on the measurement of population and organizational health literacy in Europe, M-POHL’s ambitious aims are to:

  • support health literacy by strengthening the collaboration between research and policy,
  • address the health literacy among general population and patients,
  • institutionalize regular, high-quality internationally comparative population health literacy surveys,
  • address health literacy-friendliness of systems and organizations,
  • support assessing organizational health literacy (health literacy-friendly structures and processes), and
  • foster evidence-based policy and practice.

M-POHLs first project: HLS19

M-POHL’s first project was the Health Literacy Survey 2019-2021 (HLS19) which was conducted in 17 countries. It demonstrated the relevance of general health literacy and specific health literacies for considerable proportions of adult residents with low health literacies, a social gradient for health literacies, and significant potential effects of health literacies on health-relevant indicators. Based on the HLS19 results, recommendations to improve health literacy were developed. 

M-POHL-Projects 2023-2027

M-POHL implemented three projects with a timeline from 2023 – 2027 to ensure that its aims are met:

  • Project 1: Health Literacy Survey 2024-2026 (HLS24), see Factsheet HLS24 or the HLS24 page for details
  • Project 2: Assessing Organizational Health Literacy (OHL) Factsheet OHL for details
  • Project 3: Evidence-based Policy and Practice (EVPOP), see Factsheet EVPOP for details