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EPALE

Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe

 
 

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EPALE summary: December focus on health literacy

29/12/2017
by David Mallows
Language: EN

/epale/en/file/december-focus-summary-epaleDecember Focus Summary EPALE

December Focus Summary EPALE

 

EPALE’s thematic focus for December was health literacy. Among the resources gathered readers can find a definition of health literacy as well as interviews with professionals. They will also find references to evidence for the importance of improving health literacy, as well as descriptions of projects in the area and links to further information.

Health literacy concerns both the ability of individuals to understand and act appropriately on health information, as well as the ability of individual health professionals and the health systems they work in to communicate effectively with patients. But, as the blog posts this month have consistently noted, health literacy education should also be a tool for the empowerment of adults, playing an important role in supporting them to take a more assertive and more active role in their own healthcare.

Dr Jaap Koot from the Learning Community ‘Global Health’ in the University Medical Centre in Groningen suggested that many patients have difficulties understanding medical terms, finding their way around health facilities or adhering to medical prescriptions. He introduced the term ‘empowering interventions’ – those aimed at making people more health literate and better capable of making decisions on health topics. One response to this was to work with health professionals to improve their patient communication. Dr Koot reported on a training programme developed by universities in the Netherlands and Ireland in which health professionals are first asked how health literacy-friendly they are and then address any weaknesses with the help of experienced trainers. 

We also heard from Austrian colleagues about the approach to health literacy visible in Austrian adult education, with examples of health literacy adult education in practice. They also discussed the identification of vulnerable groups that may benefit from health literacy programmes.

The National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) shared information on the recently launched guide for adult literacy and community education services Well Now! on how to run a ‘literacy-friendly’ health and wellbeing course for adults.

The Belfast Healthy Cities Programme is another example of health literacy in practice.  As part of the WHO European Healthy Cities Network, Belfast will act as a champion for developing and including effective life-course approaches in city strategies, policies and plans. They also take an empowerment approach, with the aim that individuals gain better understanding of and control over their lives.

Health literacy will continue to be an important issue for European adult education and there will be an opportunity to consider the issues in more detail at the Health Literacy – Making Life Better conference in February 2018, at which examples of research and innovative practice will be shared through case study presentations and workshops.


David Mallows has 30 years of experience in adult education as a teacher, teacher trainer, manager and researcher. He was previously Director of Research at the National Research and Development Centre for adult literacy and numeracy (NRDC) at the UCL Institute of Education, London and currently represents the European Basic Skills Network in EPALE as thematic coordinator for Life Skills.

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  • David Mallows's picture
    Look forward to hearing the results of this survey Brian. Will you report back when the survey is released?
  • David Mallows's picture
    Very useful Giancarlo - is this the document you refer to?

  • GIANCARLO POCETTA's picture
    I'd like to mention that Health Literacy is included as major competence in the recent IUHPE (International Union for Health Promotion and Education) "Handbook CORE COMPETENCIES AND PROFESSIONAL STANDARDS FOR HEALTH PROMOTION" 
  • Brian Caul's picture
    An important UK survey by Action on Hearing Loss is nearing completion of the views of deaf and hard of hearing people  on access to and understanding of health services, particularly those provided by GP practices (family doctors). This will be a useful indicator of the extent of improvements for instance in electronic
    message boards and emails. Clearly getting medical assistance within a reasonable time is crucial to having a good quality of life; and is indeed a patient right. It is also essential for patient empowerment that the nature of any treatment or prescription is fully understood. There is concern however, that  negative or indifferent attitudes can present the biggest obstacles to proper patient care. Sadly deaf and hard of hearing patients can often be sidelined and neglected  because of these attitudinal barriers, whether at the point of reception or among the medical staff. In addition to thoughtful use of modern technology, patients with hearing loss can be helped to maintain good health and well-being if medical practices are prepared to examine critically their own indifferent attitudes and lack of awareness of the communication needs of their deaf and hard of hearing patients. Perhaps, as a result of this survey, central themes will emerge which can be integrated into training programmes for receptions and medical staff. Indeed the emerging issues may be relevant to all patient care. Health education empowers all patients. However continuous staff development among practitioners about the rights and communication needs of their patients is a vital ingredient to make this possible. 
    Dr. Brian Caul
    EPALE Ambassador and Action on Hearing Loss Trustee