International Handbook of Health Literacy

2 August, 2019

Dear HIFA colleagues,

I was interested to see the publication of this new book International Handbook of Health Literacy, edited by Orkan Okan and colleagues.

Kudos to the editors and authors, who have made the content freely available here:

http://www.oapen.org/viewer/web/viewer.html?file=http://www.oapen.org/do...

The early pages note: 'Besides the ongoing and tremendous public health efforts addressing health literacy in Europe, North America and the Australasian region, there is only little to no work still in Africa, very little in the Middle East, India and South America, and also very little in Russia and the Slavic countries in Europe.' Nevertheless, 'health literacy has been placed high on the agenda in the WHO Southeast Asia Region via the introduction of a health literacy toolkit for low- and middle-income countries to help communities to develop their own solutions'.

There is a chapter on 'A stated preference discrete choice health literacy intervention framework for the control of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Africa' by Kenneth Yongabi Anchang and Theckla Kwangsa Mbunwe.Selected extracts below:

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The function of health literacy in ensuring a healthy condition in individuals and communities is especially relevant in Africa, which is plagued with high endemic diseases, and in settings in which healthcare resources and infrastructure are, for the most part, limited (O’Sullivan et al, 2003; Remais et al, 2012).

Current health promotion interventions in current use in Cameroon and Africa at large are inadequate as they are too exo-centric in style, language and construction – a health literacy intervention culled from a very exo-centric set-up and tailored for the European context, for instance, may not be transferable to Africa.

Health promotion exercises in Africa are currently too linear in application. Linearity here means providing a solution to a certain problem without taking into account the contextual barriers of its wider implementation, which may be entirely different from what the researcher or facilitator wants to provide, as well as its perceived urgency and necessity.

Individuals in Africa for the most part grow up either with no health knowledge, little health notion or wrong health information that has been passed on from their parents. Some health information is misconstrued and parcelled into local beliefs systems and superstitions, thus making it difficult to dispel over time and space.

In a community whose priority is potable water, a health literacy intervention on curbing diabetes and cancer may not be quickly be accepted and sustain. This urgent need may mask the need for a literacy programme that addresses hypertension or cancer. To this effect, a joint intervention approach of providing potable water and then educating people on hypertension and cancer is the way to go.

Interventions for health literacy and promotion must always be built first on the ‘available local health knowledge’ that might, for the most part, differ from what researchers and health literacy providers would consider as evidence or knowledge.

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Best wishes, Neil

Coordinator, HIFA Project on Library and Information Services (with special focus on Population Health, Disasters, and Disease Outbreaks)

http://www.hifa.org/projects/library-and-information-services

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HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of the HIFA global health campaign (Healthcare Information For All - www.hifa.org ), a global community with more than 19,000 members in 177 countries, interacting on six global forums in four languages. Twitter: @hifa_org FB: facebook.com/HIFAdotORG neil@hifa.org