Guide to health literacy
The efficiency of health systems relies to a large extent on the way they are perceived, understood, and trusted, as well as on the accessibility of the services they offer, whilst ensuring respect for human rights. Those elements are greatly affected by people’s health literacy. Limited health literacy is closely related to adverse health outcomes whereby health literacy becomes a critical social determinant of health. This has an impact on the use of health services, health costs and the ways in which people engage with the health system. Despite investments in health services, many people are often not supported in accessing, understanding, appraising, and applying information to navigate complex health systems and environments.
European health systems face a range of challenges, including reductions in funding, ageing populations, increased immigration, cultural diversity, personnel shortages, waiting lists for patients, managed care, home care, long-term care, the growing use of technology and digital health services and tools, and health threats. The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly shown that health literacy is a matter of public concern. Health literacy is highly content- and context-related and it relates to low-income, medium-income and high-income countries alike.
This guide is intended for decision-makers and health providers to:
- support the development of more accessible and inclusive health systems in which health literacy serves as a profound pillar in relation to good governance.
- Policymakers and health providers play a central role in prioritising and implementing health literacy through a whole-of-governance and whole-of-society approach, in ways that enhance the health literacy of populations as well as the responsiveness of organisations providing health and social services.
- improve health literacy policy, research, and practice in their countries as part of the human rights agenda, identifying national needs and developing targeted health literacy solutions, such as for people in vulnerable situations, and collaborating with and developing health literacy communities within and beyond the member states of the Council of Europe.
The guide is intended to be:
- an informative and actionable online resource.
- illustrative, by using good practices,
- ready and easy to use.
In addressing health literacy, the guide explains why it is important in relation to saving times, costs, and lives. It provides examples of health literacy barriers and enablers for equitable access to health care. The guide focuses on the challenges and opportunities in implementing health literacy in policy and practice. It also suggests ways in which decision-makers and health providers can implement health literacy at various individual, organisational, and political levels to help monitor progress based on strategy, targets, and measurements.
The guide focuses on health literacy in relation to health systems, including healthcare, disease prevention and health promotion.
For the purpose of this guide:
Health literacy is linked to literacy and entails people’s knowledge, motivation, and competencies to access, understand, appraise, and apply health information in order to make judgments and make decisions in everyday life concerning healthcare, disease prevention and health promotion for themselves and those around them.
On the one hand, health literacy reflects people´s skills to meet the complex demands of the systems. On the other hand, health literacy concerns the health systems´ capacity to meet the complex needs and demands of people they serve. Health literacy is a multidimensional concept based on the interaction and match between health systems and individuals, families, and communities. Many countries are most likely already actively engaged in health literacy matters without adding the health literacy label to their actions.
Health literacy knowledge and competences refer to:
- Health knowledge, such as information related to health, disease, and patients’ rights.
- Practical skills, such as basic digital skills, communication skills and abilities to seek health information and to navigate health care settings.
- Critical thinking and selfreflective skills, such as the abilities to compare and assess the credibility of health information, to reflect on the usefulness of information from a personal perspective, and to be aware of and identify the symptoms of various diseases.
- Ethical responsibility, such as the knowledge of one’s rights as a patient, the ability to go beyond a personal perspective by thinking about the consequences of one’s actions on others.
GOOD PRACTICE :
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