Optimising health literacy in victoria logo

About Ophelia

Health literacy is broadly defined as a person’s ability to seek, understand and use health information. 

The Ophelia project is a three year Victorian initiative which will identify and test new interventions to address health literacy needs in people attending a broad range of Victorian agencies. It is funded by the Australian Research Council ,in partnership with the Victorian Department of Health and Monash University. The project is committed to improving health outcomes and reducing health inequalities for Victorians.

The Ophelia process provides organisations with a structured approach to recognise, understand and respond to the health literacy needs of members of their community through the following 8 principles.:

  1. Outcomes focused - Improved health and reduced health inequalities
  2. Equity driven - All activities at all stages prioritise disadvantaged groups and those experiencing inequity in access and outcome
  3. Co-creation approach - In all activities at all stages, relevant stakeholders engage in co-creation of solutions.
  4. Needs-diagnostic approach- Participatory assessment of local needs using local data
  5. Driven by local wisdom- Intervention development and implementation is grounded in local experience and expertise.
  6. Sustainable - Optimal health literacy practice becomes normal practice and policy
  7. Responsiveness - Recognise that HL needs and the appropriate responses vary across individuals, contexts, countries, cultures and time
  8. Systemically applied - A multi-level approach in which resources, interventions, research and policy are organised to optimise health literacy

The Ophelia Victoria project first measures the different needs of clients using the Health Literacy Questionnaire (HLQ), which captures client’s experience, views and capabilities across nine dimensions. This is followed by the collaborative development and testing of new interventions to tackle health literacy issues at both the practitioner and service level.

Phase 1: Project setup Project teams are established at eight project sites. Client groups with potential health literacy needs are identified. Training workshops assist sites in delivering the Health Literacy Questionnaire to capture detailed information on clients’ health literacy needs.

Phase 2: Measure Health Literacy Baseline survey data on the health literacy profile of priority groups are collected using the Health Literacy Questionnaire. Each project site gathers their most experienced front-line practitioners and managers to take part in structured workshops where the health literacy needs of their clients are thoroughly discussed. The front-line staff generate local solutions in responses (interventions) to identified health literacy needs that can be implemented in their organisation at the patient, practitioner, service planner and policy levels.

Phase 3: Pilot interventions Evidence and ideas collected during Phase 2 inform the development of pilot interventions at each project site. These aim to tackle a range of specific health literacy issues faced by client groups. Interventions, and how they are implemented, are informed and refined through the application of ‘Plan, Do, Study, Act’ cycles.

Phase 4: Test interventions The refined interventions will be applied within and across the eight sites. The interventions will be applicable for a wide range of clients eligible to receive diverse services (from health promotion, to community health, to hospital services). A key outcome will be a set of common and specific interventions that are relevant to many clients and organisations across Victoria.


Additional activities

  • Ophelia website A dedicated website will support partners and project sites. The site will promote information sharing and provide more in-depth information about the development of the Victorian Health Literacy Framework. 

Ophelia International

  • The Ophelia approach is currently being applied in several countries including Thailand, South Africa, England and Denmark, with ongoing discussions in several other countries.


Chief investigators

  • Prof Richard Osborne
  • Prof Rachelle Buchbinder
  • Dr Alison Beauchamp
  • Ms Jeannine Jacobson
  • Mr Roy Batterham
  • Prof Gerald Elsworth
  • Dr Sarity Dodson
  • Ms Melanie Hawkins
  • Ms Crystal McPhee


 Information and Resources

  • Launch of Ophelia by the Victorian Minister for Health, Hon David Davies Link
  • Ophelia video
  • Ophelia News A regular project newsletter will shortly be available which provides project updates Subscribe
  • Health Literacy and Ophelia This brochure provides an overview of the Ophelia approach to measuring health literacy and the development of new community-driven interventions. PDF (484kb)
  • Listen to Prof Osborne discuss Ophelia on the ABC Health Report Link


  • Deakin University
  • Monash University
  • Department of Health, Victoria

Project Sites

  • Barwon Health
  • Bass Coast Community Health
  • Bayside City Council
  • Central Bayside Community Health
  • City of Greater Dandenong
  • Eastern Health
  • Ovens and King Community Health
  • Royal District Nursing Service


  • Australian Research Council
  • Deakin University
  • Victorian Department of Health (including funding support  from the Commonwealth and Victorian Governments under the Home and Community Care Program)
  • Monash University

Page updated 20/06/2013