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Summary of Week 1

Health literacy is the interaction between individuals skills and abilities and the demands made of them in the increasingly complex health services.
Doctor and patient
© IMPACCT consortium

This is the first week of the course and provides the context of health literacy for the following weeks. This is important, as there are many definitions of what health literacy is. Therefore, it is important to be clear about the approach taken in this course, which is that health literacy emerges from the interaction between an individuals’ skills and abilities and the demands and complexities placed upon them by health services.

The extent of limited health literacy experienced in the European adult population is seen in the 2011 European Health Literacy Survey, which shows that nearly 1 in 2 people have limited health literacy. This indicates the large number of people who will experience barriers to accessing, understanding, appraising and applying health information, which has been shown to negatively effect their health. This survey also highlights another characteristic of health literacy, which is one of inequity with more people in population subgroups who are already experiencing disadvantage being found to have limited health literacy.

In exploring patient and health professional experiences of the impacts of limited health literacy you will have gained some insights into the barriers that people come across in their attempts to use health services. One of these is to do with health professionals assumptions of peoples background knowledge – known as the curse of knowledge. Becoming aware of this, along with the need to use plain language and explain things clearly is the beginning of reducing barriers for patients. We will be exploring what you can do to reduce barriers further in the next two weeks.

© IMPACCT consortium
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Working with Patients with Limited Health Literacy

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