Everyone knows how important it is to maintain and improve good health throughout your life. However, today more than ever we are exposed to harmful influences, such as pollutants in food and the environment. Today’s diversity of information on health does not make it any easier to understand what is healthy or unhealthy and how to make your everyday life healthier. Each individual must therefore ask themselves how they can increase knowledge, motivation and consistency with regard to healthy living, i.e. their own health literacy, for themselves in order to promote their health in everyday life.
What is health literacy exactly and why is it important?
Interest in health literacy (or competence) is increasing due to the growing number of people for whom their health has top priority. But what exactly does this term mean?
Health literacy means that you are competent in dealing with your own health. A central skill for this is the search, selection and understanding of health information as well as its conscious implementation in everyday situations. For example, it is competent in terms of health if you understand and follow the instructions of your doctor or the information in medical brochures and medical packaging.
At the same time, higher health literacy means that you can better communicate your questions and concerns about your health, whether to health insurance companies, authorities or other service providers such as doctors and therapists. This exchange is an important factor if, for example, you need to take medication or prepare for a medical procedure. Health literacy is also important so that you know how to recover more quickly from an illness or medical intervention.
How can you improve your health literacy?
- Read a lot about health. There are many good books, magazines and websites to keep you up to date on all health topics
- Make your everyday life healthy. Learn from good books, from sports groups or health workshops how best to do it
- Keep moving, because only an active everyday life is healthy. The motivation to move daily, to do sports and to learn more about one’s own body is an important factor to improve health competence
Improving health literacy in society
Enabling individual health competence also has a social dimension. To make it easy to develop this competence, public authorities and service providers must play their part. This includes the following aspects:
- Scientific research and dissemination of accurate, easy to understand and implement safety and health information
- Promoting positive changes in the medical system that improve communication, the quality of health information, access to health care and individual decision-making
- Integrating development-oriented health education in education and child care
- Support for health-oriented adult education
- Work with academic, governmental and philanthropic institutions to improve guidelines for health literacy development
- Health information must be easy to understand. Medical professionals should make it their task to ensure that patients understand complex health information, such as illustrations, information graphics, videos and images
The promotion of one’s own health competence should be important to everyone in order to maintain or improve the quality of life. On the one hand, it is the responsibility of each individual to acquire knowledge on the subject of health and to implement it in everyday life with the right motivation. On the other hand, service providers and authorities must understand the dissemination of well-founded, target-group-specific health information as a social obligation. This will make it even easier for each individual in the future to inform themselves in a time-efficient manner and to make competent decisions for their own health.