Health Literacy Around the WorldPosted on by
On September 24, the Institute of Medicine Roundtable on Health Literacy (Roundtable) convened health literacy leaders from the United Nations and a dozen countries to discuss activities and progress around the world.
There was general agreement that educational systems have not provided the majority of people with the literacy skills they need to find, read, listen to, analyze, understand and use health information and access health services. Participants also agreed that health care systems – public and private – are not prepared to address the low levels of health literacy skills in the populations they serve.
Dr. Ilona Kickbusch of Switzerland noted that the population data on health literacy skills show how poorly we have done around the globe with our health promotion programs. According to Dr. Kickbusch, if our health promotion efforts had been more successful, our populations would be better prepared to access and use health information and services. She proposes that people are empowered when they have choice, control and skills. (An audio recording of all the speakers is on the Roundtable page under the webinar link.)
Despite common problems, each country has its own approach to health literacy improvement. In Australia, health literacy work is part of the national Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care. Canada has a long history of connecting health literacy with health promotion and the public health sector leads the health literacy work. Ireland’s health literacy activities are linked to the country’s adult literacy agency and its efforts to improve the population’s literacy skills not only in health but also in family literacy and workforce readiness.
The U.S. National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy has influenced some counties’ approaches. For example, Canada’s “inter-sectoral” approach echoes the multi-sectoral approach in the U.S. plan. Participants expressed interest in the U.S. Action Plan as an example of a comprehensive framework for health literacy work.
If you attended the meeting (in person or by webinar), which developments were most interesting to you? If your country wasn’t represented at the meeting, what health literacy activities are happening where you live?
- Page last reviewed:September 28, 2012
- Page last updated:September 28, 2012
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