Health literacy is the set of values, the body of education, and the network and skills individuals, families, and communities require to manage their health. Health literacy is essential as it helps you make informed health-related decisions. Studies (noted below) have corroborated that health literacy is a strong parameter for predicting health status.
Health literacy also helps maintain optimal health, reduce the likelihood of illnesses, promote access to and wise use of health services, and so on. These goals require knowledge about health and its determinants, comprehending healthcare systems’ functioning, and embracing a proactive approach toward managing personal well-being.
Every aspect of health – from promoting wellness to handling illness and accessing medical services – necessitates a certain level of health literacy. We need ways to promote health literacy in local communities to help them maintain better health, monitor illnesses, and achieve various other goals.
With this in mind, below we have briefly outlined 4 ways to enhance health literacy levels.
1. Enhance Communication
Effective communication ensures that health information is clear, understandable, and available to all individuals, irrespective of their background or level of health literacy. Here are some interventions to enhance communication to promote health literacy.
- Provide language support:
- Language can be a barrier to health literacy (e.g. medical terms rather than plain English, or even a foreign language).
- Therefore, ensure health information is available in multiple languages to cater to diverse populations within the community.
- Language support ensures the information can reach more people speaking or understanding different languages.
- Language support also promotes a two-way flow of information, which helps deepen health literacy and improve health outcomes.
- Promote health advocacy:
- Advocacy starts by spreading the understanding of a certain problem, rallying support for its propagation, and seeking solutions.
- To promote public health advocacy, encourage community members to communicate their health concerns and ask questions actively.
- Only this way can they show their presence, seek participation in healthcare decisions concerning them, and advocate for their own health needs.
- Train healthcare providers:
- Enhancing local community members’ awareness through communication is impossible if healthcare providers lack effective training.
- Offer training programmes to healthcare providers on effective communication strategies, health literacy, and patient-centred care.
2. Raise Awareness and Education
Raising awareness and education is one of the primary ways to promote and deepen health literacy in local communities. There are numerous ways to raise awareness and impart education to local communities. Here are some of them.
- Organise health workshops:
- Conducting interactive workshops covering essential health topics is one way to impart knowledge to communities.
- From discussing disease prevention to healthy lifestyle choices to understanding medical terminology, a lot can be included in the agenda of these health workshops.
- To make health workshops more effective and encourage community members’ participation, use visual aids, share stories, and play quizzes.
- Engaging and participative workshops are an opportunity to enhance local communities’ health knowledge and develop skills necessary for managing health effectively.
- Establish health libraries:
- Creating community libraries with a section on health and wellness provides easy access to reliable health resources, books, and digital platforms.
- Topics covered in these resources must be extensive, from overall health information to specific conditions.
- These interventions can help individuals to stay informed.
- Host community health fairs:
- Arranging health fairs can help you reach local communities and increase their awareness about diseases and their prohibition.
- Local healthcare providers, organisations, and professionals can offer free screenings, educational resources, and consultations at community fairs.
- Community health fairs are an excellent opportunity for local community members to benefit from available resources.
- Individuals can ask questions and discern and manage various health issues.
- Aside from promoting health literacy, health fairs can also enable the early discovery of health problems and encourage entities to pursue appropriate care.
3. Ensure Collaborations and Partnerships
Collaboration and partnership with individuals and local organisations are instrumental in promoting health literacy in your local community. Working with various organisations is a great way to efficiently leverage their knowledge, resources, and influence to boost community-based health literacy initiatives.
Here are some organisations you can collaborate with to make your interventions garner effective results.
- Local schools:
- Schools serve as a central hub for education and can play a crucial role in disseminating health information and promoting health literacy.
- You can work with schools to incorporate health literacy education into their curriculum.
- Topics to include in school curricula range from nutrition, mental health, and preventive care to sexual health education.
- Partnering with schools ensures that health literacy becomes part of an individual’s learning system.
- This can empower them with the knowledge and skills to make informed health choices.
- Community organisations:
- Collaborating with local organisations can be another result-oriented strategy.
- You can collaborate with non-profit organisations, community centres, and religious institutions to organise health-related events, workshops, and support groups.
- If these organisations have existing health literacy programmes, instead of proposing new interventions, you can improve and make them more effective.
- Involve healthcare providers:
- Engaging providers in health literacy efforts is crucial, as people often trust their information.
- Healthcare professionals such as doctors and nurses can help by communicating complex health information to the public clearly and understandably.
- However, before working with healthcare providers in your local community, provide them with adequate training, resources, guidelines, and tools.
- It will prepare them for the task.
4. Target Specific Populations
Instead of making the whole community your target population, you can make your interventions more effective by targeting specific groups. For instance, you can target the following groups before spreading out the scope of your interventions.
- Work with youth:
- Design your health literacy interventions, keeping the education and understanding of youth in mind to address their unique health needs and challenges.
- To do so, implement health literacy programmes in schools and youth organisations to promote healthy habits, stress management, and self-care.
- Support vulnerable members:
- Every community has members who are more vulnerable than others.
- Hence they are more in need of healthcare literacy.
- As part of your healthcare literacy initiatives, tailor efforts to reach underserved populations, including low-income individuals, immigrants, and refugees.
- The best way to access these members is by partnering with community leaders and offering culturally appropriate resources.
- Address senior health:
- The health difficulties of seniors are often quite different from other members of a community.
- Therefore, they may require specific information and support to preserve their well-being.
- Develop community-based initiatives that cater to the specific health needs of older adults.
- The initiatives can focus on medication management, fall prevention, chronic disease management, and navigating healthcare systems.
- Empowering seniors with important information can lessen their dependency on others for fulfilling their health needs.
Health literacy is extremely important to empower your community to manage their health and well-being. There are many ways to promote healthcare literacy, some of which are mentioned above. By following these ways, you can ensure that your community members have the knowledge and skills to make informed health-related decisions and keep themselves safe and healthy.