Health Literacy Matters – More Than Ever!
Health literacy helps us make informed choices for our health every day. This has become particularly noticeable during the COVID-19 pandemic, when it has been important for everyone to act on critical health information.
What is health literacy?
Health literacy is the ability to obtain, understand, evaluate and communicate information to make appropriate health decisions. Health literacy involves more than being able to read. It also includes the ability to use numbers, evaluate health information and communicate effectively.
The World Health Organization has pointed out that building health literacy is a lifelong process. “No one is fully health literate – everyone at some point needs help in understanding or acting on important health information”.
Health literacy also applies to the creation of health messages that are clear and easy to use, and to health care systems that provide low-barrier access to services.
Why is health literacy important?
Health literacy promotes, maintains and improves health by helping people:
- Understand health and safety information at work, at home and in the community
- Know where to find help for health issues
- Accurately describe symptoms
- Ask effective questions about health and health care
- Identify misleading and false information
- Safely manage medications and follow treatment plans
- Navigate the health care system
- Choose healthy behaviours
COVID-19 has made it necessary for people to rapidly obtain and apply health information. Health literacy has helped people understand what they need to do to prevent infection and reduce the spread of the virus.
Did you know?
- Canadians with stronger literacy skills enjoy better health. (The health and social dimensions of adult skills in Canada: Findings from the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), 2017)
- 60% of Canadian adults don’t have the skills to manage their health literacy needs. (Health literacy in Canada: a healthy understanding, 2008)
- 23% of Canadians find it difficult to find out where to get professional help when they are ill. (ABC Life Literacy Canada Health Literacy Statistics Infographic, 2020)
Learn more at The BC Health Literacy Network.
Where can I find help?
If you or someone you know would like to build stronger health literacy skills, contact the Literacy Outreach Coordinator or literacy organization in your BC community. Use this map to find them.
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