Engaging men in health

March 2009

Professional

Health literacy

A new concept for general practice?

Volume 38, No.3, March 2009 Pages 144-147

Robert J Adams

Nigel Stocks

David H Wilson

Catherine L Hill

Susan Gravier

Ilona Kickbusch

Justin Beilby

Background

Health literacy is the ability to understand and interpret the meaning of health information in written, spoken or digital form and how this motivates people to embrace or disregard actions relating to health.

Objective/s

This article aims to describe the concept of health literacy, its importance and its applications in the general practice setting.

Discussion

Australia trails behind other western countries in practical applications of health literacy. Health literacy underpins the efficiency of consultations, health promotion efforts, and self management programs. Recognition of the health literacy status of individuals allows use of appropriate communication tools. This can save time and effort and improve patient satisfaction and health outcomes.

Health literacy (HL) is more than just the ability to read, write, and understand numbers in the health setting. Health literacy is the cognitive ability to understand and interpret the meaning of health information in written, spoken or digital form. It impacts on whether people are able to embrace or disregard actions relating to health, and make sound health decisions in the context of every day life.

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Correspondence afp@racgp.org.au

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