Health literacy plays an important role when it comes to making decisions for living a healthy life. That is why Careum is promoting the issue in Switzerland.
All citizens should be able to make their own decisions about their health and play their part in creating a better health care system. In order to do this, they need to have access to health care information, be able to understand and analyse it, and harness it to determine their behaviour and decisions.
In other words – they need a certain level of health literacy. Health literacy is a vital tool when it comes to gaining a better understanding of your own health, navigating health concerns effectively and making informed health-related decisions. It also plays an important role as far as reducing health inequalities is concerned and has the potential to increase equal opportunities.
Definition of health literacy
There are variety of definitions and models in literature relating to the topic of health literacy. A systematic analysis has pooled these together into one model and broadly defined health literacy as follows:
“Health literacy is linked to literacy and entails people’s knowledge, motivation and competences to access, understand, appraise, and apply health information in order to make judgments and take decisions in everyday life concerning healthcare, disease prevention and health promotion to maintain or improve quality of life during the life course.”
(Sørensen et al., Health literacy and public health, 2012)
Health literacy is understood as a relational concept. In other words, it is not just a matter of personal skills and abilities; it also depends on the requirements and complexities of the environment. It also concerns the interplay between individuals, organisations and situations.
How to strengthen health literacy
In order to strengthen health literacy in the long term, we need to adopt a cross-sectoral approach involving society as a whole. This is a challenge not only for the health care system itself, but also for the education and training system, politics, science, the media and a variety of other fields. The individual measures should be as evidence-based as possible and draw on examples of best practice.
With a nationally leading competence centre, Careum seeks to put the framework conditions in place to promote the issue of health literacy in Switzerland. The Center for Health Literacy of Careum is active in the key areas of the matter and focuses on the people, the relevant settings and organisations of health, education and social services and on the specialists who work there. In order to bolster them in their role as people who establish communication and provide information, Careum creates knowledge, develops teaching and learning opportunities, coordinates services and activities and launches innovative projects.