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Em(power)ment to the people!

Health literacy is fundamental for empowerment, and people with limited health literacy need and seek empowerment as much as any other patient.
Health professionals and patients holding healthcare related symbols
© IMPACCT consortium

If you remember from Week 1, we learned about health literacy through its definition, which includes the following statement:

[…] By improving people’s access to health information and their capacity to use it effectively, health literacy is critical to empowerment.
But what is empowerment? And why is health literacy “critical” for it?
Let us substitute the word empowerment from the previous statement with its definition as given by the WHO:
[…] By improving people’s access to health information and their capacity to use it effectively, health literacy is critical to [the process through which people gain greater control over decisions and actions affecting their health].
This allows us to know what empowerment is and why without health literacy and its core concepts, it is unlikely to happen.

So what happens with patients with limited health literacy?

According to the systematic review by Jager et al (2019):
Patients with LHL (Limited Health Literacy) often perceived a lack of control regarding different aspects of disease management.
Patients with limited health literacy want to feel personally responsible for their own health and in control of their care process and disease management. […] Personal autonomy when making choices concerning one’s own health or when discussing information and consent is desired by patients.

From that we can conclude that people living with limited health literacy are in as much need of becoming empowered as any other patient, and even more importantly, they want to be empowered.

How to empower patients with limited health literacy?

In the same systematic review, patients with limited health literacy recognised the relevance of their knowledge about their disease, symptoms, and results, with their sense of feeling more in control and confident about managing their condition. By having more knowledge of their own disease, patients felt that they were regaining power and autonomy. This will be further explored in later steps.


Jager, M., de Zeeuw, J., Tullius, J., Papa, R., Giammarchi, C., Whittal, A., & de Winter, A. F. (2019). Patient Perspectives to Inform a Health Literacy Educational Program: A Systematic Review and Thematic Synthesis of Qualitative Studies. International journal of environmental research and public health, 16(21), 4300.

© IMPACCT consortium
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Working with Patients with Limited Health Literacy

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