Elliot R. SIEGEL Ph.D., FACMI
U.S. National Library of Medicine (Retired); Editorial Board Member, Studies in Health Technology and Informatics
Corresponding author: Elliot R. Siegel. email@example.com.
The Studies in Health Technology and Informatics (SHTI) series was started in 1990, driven by developments in biomedical technologies and medical informatics research. Both were advancing simultaneously to form an integrated view of information and communications technologies that sought to manage and benefit from increasingly large amounts of health data and information available to professional and lay audiences. The latter helped spawn the multidisciplinary field of health literacy, which promotes the successful engagement with and communication of health information to patients, caregivers, and the public.
Health literacy intersects with the field of consumer health informatics (CHI) that focuses on information structures and processes which empower consumers of health information to manage their own health. The cornerstones of CHI research and practice involve fostering health information literacy; promoting consumer-friendly language; encouraging accessible and usable personal health records; and developing innovative Internet-based strategies and resources. The American Medical Informatics Association further characterizes other disciplines that transect with CHI and health literacy, which include nursing informatics, public health, health promotion, health education, library science, and communication science.
Two years ago SHTI published Health literacy: new directions in research, theory and practice . The current book coupled with the earlier volume strive to enumerate and expand our understanding of the aforementioned multidisciplinary connections with reports of specific health literacy research initiatives and interventions, particularly in clinical practice and public health.
A number of these reports also advance the use of communications tools and strategies, including contemporary information and/or communications technologies and resources. While typically a secondary emphasis, the use of communications tools and strategies serve as a means for intervention or a topic of study in their own right.
Among the book’s 41 submissions, thirteen papers addressed some aspects of information and communications technology and were selected for co-publication in special issues of the companion IOS Press journal Information Services and Use (ISU) [2–3]. In several of the latter manuscripts, the Internet occupies an outsize role, reflecting its unique strengths and weaknesses as a medium of communication and engagement, and an instrument for persuasion. For society – whether we seek it or not – the Internet mediates a shared vision of achieving the goals of a health literate and a healthy society.
In ISU’s special issue, Ahmed describes the launch some 21 years ago and the continued development of MedlinePlus.gov’s search engine and website . Currently, MedlinePlus serves as a valued and effective resource for patient education and the promotion of health literacy in the general population.
As a topical focus, childhood immunization is a serious public health concern that has generated considerable activity on the Internet. In the ISU special issue, Willis and colleagues note the proliferation of web-based platforms and mobile applications that disseminate credible information about immunization . Christie and Ratzan explain the need for leadership and investment in digital health communication to increase vaccine coverage as a social norm throughout the world . They along with Peterson and colleagues  also address the aspersive influences of some social media sites and online patient support groups that deliberately disseminate health misinformation on issues such as child immunization safety. The latter authors propose the need to inoculate information seekers with health literacy skills that enable them to successfully identify and distinguish between evidenced-based and non-evidenced based information.
Borrowing as they do from CHI and communication science, efforts to inoculate information seekers with health literacy skills is an excellent example of benefits accruing from the skill sets, strategies and tools available in related disciplines. In this era of ‘fake news’ that seemingly permeates all communications media – especially electronic, health literacy researchers and practitioners would do well to avail themselves of such knowledge as a means to confront this common challenge.
 Logan, RA, Siegel, ER editors. Health literacy: new directions in research, theory, and practice. Amsterdam, IOS Press; 2017
 Information Services and Use. 2019; 39(1,2):1-122.
 Information Services and Use. 2020; 40(1): In press.
 Ahmed T. MedlinePlus at 21: a website devoted to consumer health information. In: Logan RA, Siegel ER, editors. Health literacy in clinical practice and public health: new initiatives and lessons learned at the intersection with other disciplines. Amsterdam: IOS Press; 2020.
 Willis E, Gundacker C, Harris M, Mameledzija M. Improving immunization and health literacy through a community-based approach. In: Logan RA, Siegel ER, editors. Health literacy in clinical practice and public health: new initiatives and lessons learned at the intersection with other disciplines. Amsterdam: IOS Press; 2020.
 Christie GP, Ratzan SC. Beyond the bench and bedside: health literacy is fundamental to sustainable health and development. In: Logan RA, Siegel ER, editors. Health literacy in clinical practice and public health: new initiatives and lessons learned at the intersection with other disciplines. Amsterdam: IOS Press; 2020.
 Peterson EB, Gaysynsky A, Chou WYS, Rising C. The role and impact of health literacy on peer-to-peer health communication. In: Logan RA, Siegel ER, editors. Health literacy in clinical practice and public health: new initiatives and lessons learned at the intersection with other disciplines. Amsterdam: IOS Press; 2020.