Lesson 2 Health literacy

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),

Personal health literacy is defined as :

“the degree to which individuals have the ability to find, understand, and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others”.


Let’s break it down in three parts!

Scenario – Feeling ill

Let’s say that you are feeling ill, think that you may have a fever and feel a low-intensity but noticeable pain in the chest. You then remember that there is a local health center nearby and search their webpage. You search for your symptoms on their webpage and find that you might suffer from a respiratory disease, and you are recommended to visit a doctor in the local practice. What are your options? You can:

  1. Stay home, take no medication, and let it go by, even though you will be constantly worried
  2. Visit or call your doctor and ask for his/her diagnosis and recommended course of action.

Obviously, you should follow the second option!

Let’s now see health literacy though this example.

  • Firstly, you were able to find this information by visiting the webpage of a local credible practice.
  • Then, you read the webpage and could understand the information about respiratory diseases.
  • Finally, you were presented with the option to visit the physician, and hopefully, you chose to act and use the consultation service provided at your local practice or call his/her practice.

Low health literacy increases the risk of:

  1. Serious illness
  2. Needing emergency care
  3. Mismanaging medication
  4. Poor health in old people
  5. Not understanding diseases and conditions
  6. Being hospitalized

With adequate health literacy, you can:

  • Locate healthcare providers and services
  • Seek preventive health care and understand relevant actions to be taken
  • Manage chronic health conditions
  • Understand your medication and how to manage it
  • Choose healthier habits (e.g. healthy diet, adequate sleep, and exercise)
  • Save money, through better health decisions and behaviours
  • Communicate the benefits of those habits to those close to you
  • And the most important of all: analyse the risks and benefits of your behaviour on your health

Let us review what we have learnt through the following video.