Belfast Healthy Cities hosted a seminar to promote and examine the relatively new topic of Health Literacy. The event included contributions from a WHO expert, experienced health practitioners from across the UK and Ireland, and local health and wellbeing professionals.
WHO defines health literacy as ‘linked to literacy and entails people’s knowledge, motivation and competences to access, understand, appraise and apply health information in order to make judgments and take decisions in everyday life concerning health care, disease prevention and health promotion to maintain or improve quality of life during the life course’ (Health Literacy: The Solid Facts)
Research shows that people with low health literacy make more mistakes with medication or treatment, are less able to follow treatment instructions and lack the skills needed to negotiate the healthcare system (WHO, 2013). This results in fewer people attending screening services, higher numbers attending A&E, increased hospitalisation and re-hospitalisation along with increased morbidity and premature death. Improved health literacy helps patients to understand medical instructions and information and to make more informed decisions, which will benefit their health.
The event was opened by the Chief Medical Officer for Northern Ireland, Michael McBride who highlighted the challenges and potential benefits of bringing about a higher level of health literacy locally.
Christine Hoy, Primary Care Development Manager, Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland
Fergus Dolan, Literacies Development Worker, National Adult Literacy Agency, Ireland
Judy Kurth, Safer and Healthy Communities, Public Health, City of Stoke onTrent.
Glen McCrum, Greater Village Regeneration Trust;
Erica Ison, WHO Expert Advisor