As shown by a survey in eight European countries, one in two people face difficulties when it comes to managing their health. Public health researchers present their vision on how to advance health literacy in Europe.
Beyond doubt the European Health Literacy project (HLS-EU) which took place from 2009-2012 has played a key role in the agenda setting of health literacy in Europe. The European Health Literacy Survey revealed health literacy to be a neglected public health topic in Europe. Most importantly, the survey showed that almost one in two face problems when interacting with the health system and when managing information to maintain and promote health. In a recent paper, published in the Public Health Forum, Kristine Sørensen and Helmut Brand analysed the project’s impact.
Investing in the health literacy of individuals and organisations
More than the eight original countries in the study followed up with similar surveys and the evidence base for health literacy is constantly growing. However, the bigger picture remains the same. Health literacy is an important determinant of health which needs to be taken into account in future health matters. According to Sørensen and Brand, a two-tier approach must be pursued when developing solutions to bridge the gap of limited health literacy. Investments must be dedicated to develop individual health literacy during the life course as well as in the creation of health literacy friendly systems and organisations.
The researchers’ vision for advancing health literacy in Europe thus includes a Europe where:
- health literacy data will be available from all EU Member States
- health literacy strategies and actions plans will be well integrated into organisational practices
- health literacy will form part of professional curricula across EU Member States
- health literacy will be integrated into school curricula across EU Member States and in adult learning throughout the life course.
Health literacy matters – in research, policy, education and practice. While the European Health Literacy project paved the way, Sørensen and Brand emphasize the importance of investing in the momentum as a health literate Europe is a pre-requisite for a healthy European population as well as for the growth of welfare.
Learn more: Health Literacy Europe
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