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What exactly is “health literacy”?
Governmental health leaders want to provide a good definition.
Healthy People 2030, a 10-year outline of health improvement goals from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, wants your input on their working definition: “Health literacy occurs when a society provides accurate health information and services that people can easily find, understand, and use to inform their decisions and actions.”
This definition, while an improvement over Healthy People 2020’s, focuses too much on healthcare-related information and services and too little on the social determinants of health.
So, we drafted a model comment and a revised definition to submit by Aug. 5, 2019!
Inequities in health arise from inequities in the social and physical environments in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age, known as social determinants of health.
More than 80% of the nearly $3.5 trillion spent on medical care each year in the U.S. is used on treating chronic diseases—most of which are preventable and related to the conditions of poverty.
The working definition of health literacy focuses on capacity and skills to address immediate health care needs while neglecting the underlying social determinants that degrade health equity.
We cannot expect people to adopt the healthy behaviors and recommendations that health professionals champion when people are disadvantaged by social, economic, and environmental barriers.
Moreover, we cannot expect people to advocate for social and physical environments that promote good health for all without an understanding of how social determinants impact health.
Please revise the current working definition of health literacy to elevate the importance for both those in need of and those providing health information and services to also embrace the role social determinants play in health, particularly across the other four key domains of social determinants of health: economic stability, education, neighborhood and built environment, and social and community context.
Salud America!’s Suggested Definition: “Health literacy occurs when society provides accurate information about health and social determinants of health that people can easily and equitably find, understand, and use to inform their decisions, actions, and advocacy.”
Health Literacy Definition and Its Impact
Healthy People provides science-based national objectives for improving the health of all Americans over a 10-year period.
That’s why your input on this issue is needed! Healthy People 2030 needs to hear from you on their current definition.
2020 Definition: “Health literacy is the degree to which an individual has the capacity to obtain, communicate, process, and understand basic health information and services to make appropriate health decisions.”
Working 2030 Definition: “Health literacy occurs when a society provides accurate health information and services that people can easily find, understand, and use to inform their decisions and actions.”
Salud America!’s Suggested Definition: “Health literacy occurs when a society provides accurate information about health and social determinants of health that people can easily and equitably find, understand, and use to inform their decisions, actions and advocacy.”
If you agree with our suggestion, send an email.
Make Your Voice Heard on Health Literacy
If you would like to write your own comment, follow these instructions:
- address the strengths and/or weaknesses of the recommended definition;
- be brief and concise (limit 250 words);
- make specific editing suggestions; and
- cite articles that support suggested changes (if any).
Send your email by Aug. 5, 2019.
Or submit the model Salud America! definition to focus on social determinants of health!