Health literacy

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Health literacy is the ability to find, understand, assess and apply health information in order to make appropriate everyday health decisions. Health literacy is part of education and includes knowledge , motivation and competence to act . It is needed in the areas of coping with illness, prevention and health promotion for oneself, for one's loved ones and for people for whom one is responsible. Good health literacy enables the quality of life to be maintained or improved throughout life. In the English-speaking world, the concept is known as health literacy .

State of research

A representative study published in 2016 shows: More than half, namely over 54 percent, of the population in Germany are faced with considerable problems when dealing with health-relevant information. Only seven percent say they have no difficulty handling information and have very good health literacy. At 38 percent, health literacy can be classified as sufficient. The majority of the population in Germany says it is difficult to find, understand, correctly classify, evaluate and use information relevant to health, for example in order to find the right help in the event of health impairments. This makes it difficult for them to make everyday decisions that are beneficial for their health. In short: they lack sufficient “health literacy”.

Consequences of poor health literacy

Studies show that up to half of patients are unable to understand basic health information and follow treatment instructions. Poor health literacy reduces the success of treatment and increases the risk of medical errors. According to a 2004 report by the Institute of Medicine IOM, poor health literacy negatively affects patient outcomes and the safety of care. These patients are at a higher risk of going to the hospital and having to stay there longer. They are less likely to follow treatment instructions, make more mistakes when taking medication, and are more ill the first time they see a doctor.

Ways to improve health literacy

Health literacy must be promoted in a wide variety of areas: in health care, in education, in the world of work, in family and leisure time as well as in the media and through communication. A suitable method is u. a. the cognitive activation that z. E.g. through emotional and provocative questions a deeper, active occupation with health topics can be achieved than a pure information presentation.

National Health Literacy Action Plan

A systematic approach is required to sustainably strengthen health literacy in Germany. So far, however, there has been no comprehensive, Germany-wide strategy to promote health literacy. Following the example of other countries, a National Action Plan on Health Literacy was therefore presented for Germany on February 19, 2018. It goes back to a civil society initiative of Bielefeld University and the Hertie School of Governance and was financed by the Robert Bosch Foundation . The action plan comprises 15 specific recommendations in four areas of action. It was developed by a group of recognized experts and has been approved by representatives from politics, practice and society.

History of the concept

The term "health literacy" was first mentioned in a 1974 publication. In 1978, Leonard and Cecile Doak examined the reading skills of hospital patients. The Doaks published in 1985 along with Jane Root the then groundbreaking book "Teaching Patients with Low Literacy Skills" (patients with low literacy instruct).

This initial biomedical view of health literacy is now considered too short-sighted and outdated; However, it was dominant in the USA until the 1980s and 1990s: Individuals were often portrayed as suffering from poor health literacy, based on the assumption that the recipients are passive and on the assumption that health information is socially neutral and universally applicable.

Today health is seen in connection with the environment and culture. Where there is an adequate level of health literacy, that is, where the population has adequate knowledge and skills, and where the members of a community have confidence in their own health, people are better able to stay healthy from illness too recover and live with illness or disability.

In 1986, at the first international conference on health promotion in Ottawa, the programmatic Ottawa Charter on Health Promotion was adopted, which begins with the words: “Health promotion aims at a process that enables all people to have a greater degree of self-determination about their health and thus to strengthen it to empower their health. ”This means that the comprehensive concept of health literacy has already been considered.

2000: Health literacy is described as a goal and a challenge for public health in the 21st century. Health promotion should contribute to health literacy, to the social mobilization of disadvantaged groups, and to health. There are three levels of health literacy: 1. Basic / functional health literacy: sufficient linguistic understanding and reading skills to cope with everyday life. 2. Communicative / interactive competence: Better cognitive and social skills help to actively participate in everyday activities, to understand and implement information. 3. Critical competence: Increased cognitive and social skills enable the critical evaluation of information and its use to better control one's life.

The project to measure health literacy in eight European countries from 2009 to 2012 showed that almost half of adults in those countries had insufficient or problematic health literacy skills. The results from Germany and Austria showed worse results compared to the European average. In Switzerland, the survey was carried out in 2015. The topic was put on the political agenda in Austria and Switzerland in 2014.


  • WHO Regional Office Europe, AOK Federal Association: Health literacy - the facts. German version of “Health Literacy. The Solid Facts ". WHO Regional Office for Europe, 2013
  • Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences. Health literacy in Switzerland - status and prospects. swiss academies reports Vol. 10, No. 4, 2015. ISSN  2297-1564 (print); ISSN  2297-1572 (online)
  • Alliance health literacy. Promoting health literacy - approaches and impulses. An action guide. Action Guide

Web links

See also

Individual evidence

  1. Sørensen K, Pelikan JM et al. for the European Health Literacy Consortium. Health literacy in Europe: comparative results of the European health literacy survey (HLS-EU). Eur J Public Health. 2015 Apr 5. PMID 25843827
  2. ^ WHO Health literacy. The solid facts  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. PDF 3 MB@1@ 2Template: Dead Link /  
  3. Schaeffer, D., Vogt, D., Berens, E.-M., Hurrelmann, K .: Health literacy of the population in Germany - report on results. Ed .: Bielefeld University. Bielefeld 2016.
  4. ^ The Institute of Medicine: Health Literacy: A Prescription to End Confusion (2004)
  5. Comparative report on health literacy in eight EU member states. The European Health literacy project 2009-2012 Website of the project  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.@1@ 2Template: Dead Link /  
  6. Terry C. Davis, PhD; Michael S. Wolf, PhD, MPH; Pat F. Bass III, MD; Jason A. Thompson, BA; Hugh H. Tilson, MD, DrPH; Marolee Neuberger, MS; and Ruth M. Parker, MD (2006). "Literacy and Misunderstanding Prescription Drug Labels". Annals of Internal Medicine 145 (12): 887-94. doi : 10.7326 / 0003-4819-145-12-200612190-00144 . PMID 17135578
  7. ^ MV Williams; et al. (1995). "The test of functional health literacy in adults: a new instrument for measuring patients' literacy skills." J Gen Intern Med. 10 (10): 537-41. doi : 10.1007 / BF02599568 . PMID 8576769 .
  8. Health literacy alliance. Promoting health literacy - approaches and impulses. An action guide. Action Guide
  9. D'Eath M, Barry MM, Sixsmith J .: A rapid evidence review of interventions for Improving health literacy. Stockholm, European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, 2012
  10. Guido Nöcker (project leader): Health Literacy / Health Promotion - Scientific Definitions, Empirical Findings and Social Benefits. Documentation of the workshop discussion with universities on November 5, 2015 in Cologne . In: Federal Center for Health Education (Ed.): Health Promotion Concrete . tape 20 . Cologne 2016, p. 50 .
  11. ^ The National Health Literacy Action Plan. Retrieved October 12, 2018 .
  12. ^ Schaeffer, D., Hurrelmann, K., Bauer, U., Kolpatzik, K. (Ed.): National Action Plan on Health Competence . Strengthen health literacy in Germany. KomPart, Berlin 2018.
  13. ^ SK Simonds. "Health Education As Social Policy" Health education monographs 01/1974; 2 (1): 1-10. doi : 10.1177 / 10901981740020S102
  14. ^ Anne McMurray (2007). Community Health and Wellness: A Sociological Approach (3rd ed.). Brisbane: Elsevier. ISBN 978-0-7295-3788-9 .
  15. Don Nutbeam: Health literacy as a public health goal Health Promotion International, Volume 15, No. 3, September 2000, pages 259-267, accessed October 5, 2019
  16. K. Sørensen, JM Pelikan, F. Röthlin, et al .: Health literacy in Europe: comparative results of the European health literacy survey (HLS-EU). In: European journal of public health. Volume 25, number 6, December 2015, pp. 1053-1058, doi : 10.1093 / eurpub / ckv043 , PMID 25843827 , PMC 4668324 (free full text).
  17. ^ Austrian Ministry of Social Affairs. Austrian Platform for Health Competence (ÖPGK) . Retrieved October 15, 2018.
  18. Swiss Federal Office of Public Health. Health2020 . Retrieved October 15, 2018.