Coronavirus (273) COVID-19: Digital health literacy is a key to saving time, costs and lives

31 March, 2020

(with thanks to HIFA member Irina Ibraghimova and LRC Network)


“The outbreak of coronavirus has reinforced the importance of health literacy to public health. More than a third of populations are at risk of having problematic health literacy, according to European research. People with low health literacy are more vulnerable to contracting COVID-19. When you don’t understand the details, the misinformation quickly spreads, and you can make bad decisions that impact your health and the safety of those around you” Dr. Kristine Sørensen, President of the International Health Literacy Association and Executive Chair of Health Literacy Europe.

Comment (Neil PW): Yes, digital health literacy is key - but equally important is the 'organisational health literacy' of those who package and disseminate information. It is critical that healthcare information providers think in terms of the needs and health literacy of their audiences. This includes such basic issues as using the right language. It is only a few months ago that the World Association of Medical Editors (WAME) issued a statement (further to 18 months of advocacy by HIFA) that English-language journals should consider the language needs of their readers and make at least the abstract available in the official language of the country where the research was undertaken. Similar consideration should be given to ensure the technical level and format of information is appropriate, including for those with disabilities and who cannot read. Organisational health literacy is potentially easier to improve than individual health literacy. For more information on 'organisational health literacy' see: