TYPOLOGY

The Health Literacy Typology includes a list of health literacy types applied in policy, research and practice. It shows the widespread use of health literacy in everyday life. The references are not inclusive; they can act as starting point for a wider search.

Health literacy

"Health literacy is linked to literacy and entails people's knowledge, motivation and competences to access, understand, appraise, and apply health information in order to make judgments and take decisions in everyday life concerning healthcare, disease prevention and health promotion to maintain or improve quality of life during the life course".

Alternative medicine health literacy

"The information about complementary and alternative medicine needed to make informed self-management decisions regarding health".

Caregiver health literacy

"Health literacy is linked to literacy and entails people's knowledge, motivation and competences to access, understand, appraise, and apply health information in order to make judgments and take decisions in everyday life concerning healthcare, disease prevention and health promotion to maintain or improve quality of life during the life course".

Complementary medicine health literacy

"The information about complementary and alternative medicine needed to make informed self-management decisions regarding health".

Critical digital health literacy

"The ability to seek, find, understand, and appraise health information from electronic sources to not only apply the knowledge gained addressing or solving a health problem, but also to participate in the healthcare system".

Digital health literacy

“The ability to seek, find, understand, and appraise health information from electronic sources and apply the knowledge gained to addressing or solving a health problem”.

eHealth literacy

"The ability to read, use computers, search for information, understand health information, and put it into context".

Functional health literacy

"Being able to apply literacy skills to health-related materials such as prescriptions, appointment cards, medicine labels, and directions for home health care".

Geriatric health literacy

"Geriatric health literacy concerns the health literacy of elderly people"

Geriatric health literacy concerns the health literacy of elderly people. There is no specifically defined age that marks individuals as old, however, the United Nations defines the older population from the age 60 and above (“WHO | Proposed working definition of an older person in Africa for the MDS Project,” n.d.). Older people are likely to develop numerous diseases, possibly chronic, often multiple at the same time (WHO). More importantly, there are complex health states, that can not be defined as diseases, so-called geriatric syndromes (WHO), e.g. hearing and vision loss (Chesser et al., 2016). Cognitive functions decrease with age, however, they are crucial for health literacy, reading in particular. Simple tasks such as reading prescription bottles become increasingly difficult and are thus negatively affecting health literacy: “age as one of the highest correlates of low health literacy” (Chesser et al., 2016). Studies show that there has been a “decrease in health literacy in older adults” (Chesser et al., 2016). Additionally, “a sense of shame and embarrassment which reduces effective communication conduits and further complicates older adult health literacy” (Chesser et al., 2016). Nevertheless, adequate literacy is crucial for particularly older generations, as the need to comprehend health-related information is necessary due to the high prevalence of chronic diseases (Baker et al., 2007). Furthermore, health-related knowledge and skills foster a commitment to healthy behaviours, preventative services, and acute as well as chronic disease management (Chesser et al., 2016).

Baker et al., 2007

Chesser et al., 2016

WHO

Health insurance literacy

“The capacity to find and evaluate information about health plans, select the best plan given financial and health circumstances, and use the plan once enrolled".

Measuring Health Insurance Literacy: A Call to Action, A Report from the Health Insurance Literacy Expert Roundtable. Consumers Union, University of Maryland College Park, American Institutes for Research, February 2012. http://goo.gl/FywWmL

Maternal health literacy

"The cognitive and social skills that determine the motivation and ability of women to gain access to, understand, and use information in ways that promote and maintain their health and that of their children".

Maternal health literacy is defined as the ability and also motivation of women to “gain access to, understand, and use information in ways that promote and maintain their health and that of their children” (Renkert & Nutbeam, 2001). Furthermore, it is important they have the cognitive and social skills to do so (Renkert & Nutbeam, 2001). The focus is on antenatal education, in form of e.g. antenatal classes, which prepare expecting women for labour, delivery and baby care (Renkert & Nutbeam, 2001). The downside to those classes, however, is, that women rarely gain here, is the “confidence and emotional insight […] and the practical experience of child care” (Renkert & Nutbeam, 2001). This knowledge is often gained through childcare in extended families or communication with other women (Renkert & Nutbeam, 2001). According to Khorasani et al., that improving women’s health literacy is crucial, as the mother’s health status and “understanding of health information before and during pregnancy, as well as during the growing and evolving years of infants have a significant impact on the health of these children” (2017) (Khorasani, Peyman, & Esmaily, 2017). Thus, a women’s poor health literacy does not only affect her own health care outcomes, but also those of her (unborn) children in a negative way (Shieh & Halstead, 2009). Negative effects can be e.g. little knowledge about the effect of smoking on babies, inadequate understanding of prenatal care or breastfeeding. Maternal health literacy also includes a woman’s knowledge of her monthly cycle, birth control methods and family planning (Shieh & Halstead, 2009).

Khorasani et al., 2017

Renkert & Nutbeam, 2001

Shieh & Halstead, 2009

Mental health literacy

"Knowledge and beliefs about mental disorders which aid their recognition, management, and prevention".

Nutrition health literacy

“Nutrition literacy encompasses nutritional knowledge, food skills, the ability to communicate about nutritional issues and to critically reflect on one’s eating behaviour and the effects of consumption decisions”

According to Krause et al. (2016), nutrition literacy “encompasses nutritional knowledge, food skills, the ability to communicate about nutritional issues and to critically reflect on one’s eating behaviour and the effects of consumption decisions”. Nutrition-specific health literacy can be categorized into three forms:

The functional form of nutrition health literacy includes:
- Ability to acquire information about food, food preparation and the influence of nutrition on health
- Ability to understand information about food, for instance nutrition labelling on food
- Having knowledge of healthy nutrition and nutritional recommendations, food preparation, and salt content
- Ability to prepare a balanced meal in accordance with available resources and financial means
- Ability to make a healthy choice.
Next, the interactive form of nutrition health literacy consists of:
- Ability to talk about nutrition with friends and family
- Ability to apply information one has read about nutrition to one’s own situation.
Lastly, the critical form of nutrition health literacy encompasses:
- Ability to assess nutritional information from different sources
- Ability to assess whether a food contributes to healthy nutrition, and to distinguish between healthy and less healthy options
- Ability to understand the connection between nutrition and health
- Ability to advocate health-promoting conditions
- Ability to understand nutrition and health-related topics in the larger societal context.
 

Krause et al., 2016

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