Health literacy and its application in practise

 

Health literacy (health literacy) is defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as "the cognitive and social skills which determine the motivation and ability of individuals to gain access to, understand and use information in ways which promote and maintain good health", i.e. a person's ability to find, understand, and use health information and health services. Research into health literacy and its measurement were conducted only to a limited extent for a long time, with attention being focused only on simple skills related to health. The turnaround came relatively recently, extending the measurement of health literacy into additional domains, which reflects the definition of the concept. On the one hand, the more complex measuring instruments have begun to provide evidence of an association between low health literacy and poor health and its relationship with health inequalities and, on the other hand, also enable the application of this concept in creating policies focused on reducing health inequalities. Health literacy has become a key issue and is at the centre of interest of health scientists, medical doctors, healthcare providers, policy makers, and, of course, the people engaged in health and health services issues. One of the pioneers of this approach to measuring health literacy is Prof. Richard Osborne (Deakin University, Australia), who developed the Health Literacy Questionnaire (HLQ) for comprehensive measurement of this construct. Similarly, the team of European scientists involved in the EU Health Literacy Survey has developed a similar multidimensional tool.

 

Objective:

Because health literacy is becoming an increasingly important concept in public health, our aim is to create (or translate or adapt) a comprehensive measuring instrument for measuring health literacy in the Czech Republic which would be able to diagnose the health literacy needs of individuals and organisations. Such a tool is still lacking in our geographic environment and there is no equal and adequate replacement.

 

Progress of the research:

The original HLQ was translated via a standard procedure into the Czech language and the resulting Czech version (HLQ CZ) was validated on a representative sample of 1,000 respondents aged 15 - ?? years using interviews for administering HLQ CZ in 2014. In addition to the HLQ and socio-demographic indicators, other variables such as lifestyle, health-related behaviours, risk behaviours, and selected health indicators were also examined in the survey sample.

In the future, another cross-sectional studies will be conducted, with the aim being to analyse a broader relationship of health literacy with selected health and lifestyle variables in different socio-cultural contexts and populations (chronic patients, Roma, ethnic minorities, senior citizens, healthcare providers, etc.).

 

The potential of the research:

Preliminary statistical analyses showed that the adaptation and validation of HLQ CZ was successful, which allows the research on health and health inequalities in the Czech Republic in the current context to be integrated at the global level, enabling Czech research teams to keep up with the current societal demands.

In addition to a better understanding of the relationship between health literacy and health indicators of its comprehensive impact on individual health, HLQ CZ will be of help in the design of interventions to promote health literacy among the risk groups and the subsequent evaluation of those interventions. In this context, it is possible to rely on a revised comprehensive strategy called OPHELIA (Optimising Health Literacy to Improve Health and Equity), which creates a platform on which to use HLQ CZ and other innovative approaches to improve the health of communities.