Accessible and responsive health systems are critical to population health and human development. While progress has been made toward global health and development targets, significant inequities remain within and between countries. Expanding health inequities suggest a widespread and systemic neglect of vulnerable citizens, and a failure to enshrine within policies a responsibility to tailor care to the variable capabilities of citizens. Implementation of health and social policies that drive the design of accessible health systems, services, products and infrastructure represents the next frontier for health reform.
Within this chapter we argue the need to consider health and health literacy across policy domains, to operationalize the intent to address inequities in health in meaningful and pragmatic ways, and to actively monitor progress and impact within the context of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We contend that viewing and developing policies and systems within a health literacy framework will assist in placing citizens and equity considerations at the center of development efforts.
In this chapter, we explore the relationship between health literacy and equitable access to health care, and the role of health system and policy reform. We first explore international policies, health literacy, and the SDGs. We then explore national policies and the role that national and local services and systems play in building health literacy, and responding to the health literacy challenges of citizens. We discuss the World Health Organization's (WHO) Framework for Integrated People-Centered Health Services and the way in which health services are being encouraged to understand and respond to citizen health literacy needs. Each section of the chapter ends with a summary and a review of health literacy research and practice. Throughout, we illustrate our points through ‘vignettes’ from around the world.
International and cultural perspectives of health literacy help deepen the understanding of the global context within which health literacy plays an important role. Throughout this chapter, we explore the significance of health literacy initiatives, interventions, practices, and research for addressing health challenges on a variety of levels in the international and global context. More specifically, in this chapter, the notion of health literacy as a dynamic construct is introduced, after which we examine health literacy throughout the life course, emphasizing the impact of health literacy among children and the elderly in their families and in the community. Cultural norms and family interpersonal relations, and values influence health literacy and need to be considered when closing the health literacy disparities. Global trends of migration and immigration bring to the forefront the need for unravelling the complexity of health systems, for which health literacy plays a central role; health literacy initiatives address cultural differences between providers and patients to help narrow the communication gap. The importance of cultural competency among health care providers exemplifies how capacity building in health literacy is critical for maximizing the benefits to the public of the health care system. Health literacy provides a conceptual foundation for community participatory research, involving members of the public to take part in the planning, execution and evaluation of health education interventions. Throughout the chapter, selected case studies and picture boxes from around the globe, exemplify aforementioned topics of interest, showcased in the chapter. Practical recommendations for policy makers, practitioners and research are offered based on the studies conducted in the international context.
The field of librarianship has a history of involvement in patient education, general literacy and information literacy efforts. This history and prominent placement in communities make libraries and librarians an excellent resource in advancing health literacy practice and research. This chapter provides an overview of health literacy and health information literacy efforts in US libraries over the past two decades.
The chapter begins with the description of the role of the US National Library of Medicine in developing resources, programs, and partnerships serving health information needs of the public. It then overviews special training programs for increasing librarians' expertise with health information and health literacy support. The narrative also presents different models of health information outreach programs in diverse communities, focusing on serving special populations that may suffer from health disparities.
The second half of the chapter describes libraries' and librarians' health information response to continuously evolving contexts, mediums, and requirements. One subsection describes librarians' outreach effort with cutting-edge technologies, such as virtual worlds and gaming. Another focuses on supporting patients' information needs in clinical settings. Two more describe how libraries meet patrons' health information needs in the context of disaster preparedness and health insurance market place sign-up.
While presenting the information, to the extent possible, the chapter draws upon research and evaluation of the effectiveness of different types of programs. It also discusses enablers of successes, limitations of the existing data, and directions for future research.
This chapter discusses the need for innovative health literacy solutions to combat extensive chronic disease prevalence and costs. The authors explore the intersection of chronic disease management and health literacy. They provide specific examples of successful health literacy interventions for managing several highly prevalent chronic diseases. This is followed by suggestions on pairing research and practice to support effective disease management programs. In addition, the authors discuss strategies for collection and dissemination of knowledge gained from collaborations between researchers and practitioners. They identify current challenges specific to disseminating information from the health literacy field and offer potential solutions. The chapter concludes with a brief look at future directions and organizational opportunities to integrate health literacy practices to address the need for effective chronic disease management.
This study assesses the content of email messages posted to the Health Literacy Discussion List (HLDL) during a two-year period. The study identifies issues of concern to list subscribers, describes the purposes the list serves for health professionals, and contributes to the health literacy literature by providing an email listserv as a research corpus. The authors conducted an inductive qualitative analysis of email posts to the HLDL from October 2013 to October 2015. Using an iterative process, the authors identified descriptive categories for types of posts and topics of posts. The first (SKR) and second (JM) authors reviewed subject lines of all 2,036 posts and brainstormed type and topic categories, independently read and sorted a random sample of 200 posts into those categories, and then discussed discrepancies. Based on the latter experience, the authors combined, added, or excluded certain categories and jointly created a detailed description for each type and topic category. We then sorted another random sample of 200 posts and generated a list of key words relating emails to topic categories. A Cohen's kappa reliability coefficient was calculated to establish intercoder reliability. The third author (RVR) then conducted key word searches for sorting the remaining 1,836 email posts. The existence and frequency of email clusters and the content of emails in these clusters were used to identify and explore in greater detail the “hot topics” of interest to the field. Our analysis suggests the utility of the HLDL as a platform for sharing information and resources, announcements and calls for action, technical assistance and professional discourse.
Social media – websites and other online tools called social networks – serve as a tool to connect people and organizations around topics of common interest. Social media platforms offer tremendous opportunity to engage quickly and sometimes in depth with many and diverse stakeholders as people have the ability to communicate back-and-forth from anywhere in the world. As increasing numbers of people receive their news and health information online, it is important to ensure content delivered through online resources is accessible to diverse target audiences. This chapter discusses a mid-sized health literacy nonprofit organizations' social media philosophy and tactics during the past 10 years, as both social media and health literacy strategies evolved continuously. The integration of social media in health literacy program content depends on the use with best evidence health literacy strategies, such as the use of plain language techniques. Strategy and technical considerations for the implementation and integration of social media within a health literate health communications model are discussed.