The issue of health literacy and how it affects European health policies

Vytenis Andriukaitis, EU Commissioner responsible for Health and Food Safety. © European Union , 2016 / Date: 17/06/2016. Source: EC – Audiovisual Location: Luxembourg - LUXEMBOURG

Vytenis Andriukaitis, EU Commissioner responsible for Health and Food Safety. © European Union Date: 17/06/2016. Source: EC – Audiovisual
Location: Luxembourg – LUXEMBOURG

Exclusively written for the Sting by Ms Lili Diana Szabo, a medical student at Semmelweis University, Hungary. Ms Szabo is affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Association (IFMSA).

Health literacy is a growing topic that affects health systems and trends worldwide. There is no question that modern health policies should be influenced by health literacy. The question is how can we deal with the growing issue of health literacy? Do we need to take actions in order to improve all over health literacy, or is it enough to educate our health care professionals about the main facts in order to improve the doctor patient communication? Maybe the best option is to work on both fields to gain the best results.

Health systems work best with patients who have the self-awareness and empowerment to:

  • decide whether they should turn to doctors,
  • be part of the therapeutic decisions with their doctor
  • and find valid health information and sources.

Health literacy should be part of the elementary and high school education. To be health literate when grown up is as important as having basic mathematical, writing or reading skills. This does not mean professional knowledge, but everyone should be educated and informed enough to solve those health related issues that one comes across everyday life.

There were various health literacy assessing studies in the past years, like the HLS EU report, which measured Health Literacy in eight EU member states. The results of this study pointed out, that steps for improving health literacy is necessary. Almost every second respondent (47.6%) in the total sample had limited (inadequate or problematic) health literacy, with the prevalence ranging from 28.7% in the Netherlands to more than 62.1% in Bulgaria.

According to WHO, health literacy is a main factor in preventing and maintaining non-communicable diseases which are the so called “modern civilization diseases”.WHO’s Health Literacy Action Plan states, that policies need to be developed for health literacy. It highlights the role of politicians, professionals and society to promote and implement health literacy initiatives.

The International Union for Health Promotion and Education has established a Global Working Group on Health Literacy. Longer lifespans and the growing prevalence of non-communicable diseases requiring complex and expensive interventions put escalating pressure on health systems globally.

There are several examples of health literacy related interventions:

  • 50plusnet.nl is a Dutch internet community which allows its more than 33.000 active members over the age of 50 to expand their social network, engage in activities with people who belong to the same age group, and learn from each other. 50plusnet was developed by the Dutch National Institute for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention.
  • Karelia Social and Health Care District (Eksote) provides health care and welfare services for families and seniors with limited affluence in Karelia, Finland. An important success was reaching elderly with chronic disease combining e-health and mobile techniques with personal health coaching. This approach shows that remote monitoring should be accompanied by human contact for best effect.

The problem of low health literacy is current and urgent: the ability to access, understand, appraise and communicate information in relation to health and diseases should be the base of each patient-doctor encounter.

References:

  • Health Literacy Centre Europe: Comprehensive Approach more effective, 2015
  • KristineSørensen,Jürgen M.Pelikan,FlorianRöthlin: Health literacy in Europe: comparative results of the European health literacy survey (HLS-EU),2015
  • Ilona Kickbusch, Jürgen M. Pelikan, Franklin Apfel& Agis D. Tsouros: WHO Health Literacy The Solid Facts: Developing policies for health literacy at the local, national and European Region levels, 2013

About the author:

Ms Lili Diana Szabo is a medical student at Semmelweis University, Hungary. She is an active member of Budapest Medical Students’ Association, which is a member of IFMSA and EMSA. She also writes for the student magazine, Szinapszis and is involved in a health literacy research project at her university.

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

the European Sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

It’s time to move: 5 ways we can upgrade our SDG navigation systems

What lies ahead for the Korean Peninsula?

Lies and reality about incomes and wealth in the EU

More electric cars on EU roads by 2030

‘Education transforms lives’ says UN chief on first-ever International Day

The Ultimate Career Choice: General Practice Specialist

VW diesel scandal and climate change: can increased independent car checks lead to cleaner mobility?

These are the 3 key skill sets workers will need to learn by 2030

Forward Agenda: What can we expect from 2019?

Privacy is a human right, we need a GDPR for the world: Microsoft CEO

Eurozone: Despite anemic growth and shaky banks marks record trade surplus

This billion-dollar campaign wants to protect 30% of the planet by 2030

Chart of the day: These countries have the highest share of electric vehicles

Ukraine undecided over a strategic partnership with the EU

When did globalization begin? The answer might surprise you

Trump beats Clinton but Americans will learn the hard way that the US can’t change with an election

MEPs list conditions for new EU-Azerbaijan deal

This is how AI can help you make sense of the world

ECB doesn’t dare touch Eurozone’s big banks

Youth for Climate Change

Ambassador Zhang Ming: “Work Together for a Better Globalization”

How to talk about climate change: 5 tips from the front lines

Health Committee MEPs back plans to boost joint assessment of medicines

Saudi Arabia must halt air strikes in Yemen, says UN panel

Any doubt?

Algeria must stop arbitrary expulsion of West African migrants in desert: UN migration rights expert

How populist and xenophobic movements in the EU tear apart European businesses and startups

A Sting Exclusive live from Brussels: Solheim’s consequential visit leading the world and the UN

First EU collective redress mechanism to protect consumers

Quicker freezing and confiscation of criminal assets in the EU

This woman solved one of the biggest problems facing green energy

Shifting Tides: Policy Challenges and Opportunities for the G-20

First Western Sahara talks at UN in six years, begin in Geneva

TTIP: why it is worth not to pull the covers over your head?

Here are three ways blockchain can change refugees’ lives

Libya: $202 million needed to bring life-saving aid to half a million people hit by humanitarian crisis

Why and how Germany had it again its own way in Cyprus

UN chief calls for ‘increased commitment’ to resolution on 10th anniversary of Georgia conflict

Ambassador Zhang wishes from Brussels great success and prosperity for the China-EU relations in the Year of the Dog

MEPs back plans to halt spread of drug resistance from animals to humans

This afternoon Britain will be once more isolated from mainland Europe

Conflict and climate change challenge sustainable development effort: UN report

EU Top Jobs summit ended with no agreement: welcome to Europe’s quicksand!

EU to lead one more fight against climate change at G7 summit

‘Repeated attacks’ could close down key hospital in eastern Libya, says WHO

The strong version of the EU banking union gains momentum

7 ways for businesses to capture the youth dividend

A European student just sets the question of the day: What kind of education policies are missing in Europe?

Contact the Sting

EU economy: Between recession and indiscernible growth

Global Talent – Professional Internships

Using ‘leprosy’ metaphors in political rhetoric ‘fuels public stigma’ and discrimination: UN rights expert

EU Commission: Germany can make Eurozone grow again just by helping itself

Can indoor farming feed the world?

The US bugged Europe: Is this news?

Why CFOs need to rethink what it means to create value

EU makes key TTIP document public as protests get louder

Key Brazilian border crossing for Venezuela refugees reopens as asylum numbers pass last year’s total

Miguel Arias Cañete European Commission

EU should invest more in climate and not sit back on its laurels and watch

Trump ostracized by his party and world elites but still remains in course; how can he do it?

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s