Health literacy

The term literacy is linked to the ability to read and write, but also linked to numeracy and the ability to carry out mathematics.

Literacy is also used in a broader sense: being knowledgeable in a particular subject or field. Therefore we know different types or varieties of literacy. To give some examples:

  • Computer Literacy or digital literacy: the ability to use a computer and its software to accomplish practical tasks. There is special attention for computer literacy and the ageing population in Europe. E-health can make significant impact on health of the ageing population.
  • Cultural Literacy: the ability to understand and appreciate the similarities and differences in the customs, values, and beliefs of one's own culture and the cultures of others.
  • Financial literacy: the ability to understand and take adequate actions in budgeting, monitoring expenditure and accounting for income and expenditure.
  • Information Literacy: the ability to know when there is a need for information, to be able to identify, locate, evaluate, and effectively use that information for the issue or problem at hand.
  • Media Literacy: the ability of an informed, critical understanding of the mass media.
  • Visual Literacy: the ability to understand and produce visual messages.

Health literacy in specific can refer to the following:

  • capacities of people needed to take decisions about their own health.
  • linked to literacy and numeracy, but also encompasses basic knowledge about biology, chemistry, psychology and medicine.
  • comprises people’s knowledge, motivation and competences to access, understand, appraise, and apply health information to make judgments and take decisions.
  • helps people in everyday life in health care, disease prevention and health promotion to maintain or improve quality of life during the life course.

Health literacy capacities of older adults can improve by empowering them and giving them more knowledge, skills and self-confidence in making decisions about their own health.Health care workers can contribute by clearer and simpler communication on health issues.



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