Good health literacy is key for good health

By June Shannon Policy News   |   4th Feb 2019

The Irish Heart Foundation is committed to health literacy in Ireland

Representatives from the Irish Heart Foundation travelled to Lisbon in Portugal recently to attend a World Health Organisation (WHO) workshop on health literacy.

Good health literacy means having the knowledge, confidence and skills to seek out and understand information to improve and protect health.

According to the European Health Literacy Survey completed in 2012, 40 per cent of the Irish population have low levels of health literacy and this is linked to poor health outcomes. Research has also shown that making health information more widely available and in a manner that is easily understood, is key to reducing health inequality.

People are increasingly taking responsibility for their own health and this includes knowing their own “numbers” (blood pressure, cholesterol, etc) and taking an active part in decision about their own health care. Fundamental to this is developing an understanding about how health behaviours can directly influence personal health and wellbeing.

Organised by WHO/Europe, the health literacy workshop aimed to develop, implement and evaluate health literacy initiatives across the WHO European Region to support the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs).

Good health literacy means having the knowledge, confidence and skills to seek out and understand information to improve and protect health.

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As part of its new strategy, the Irish Heart Foundation has made a commitment to develop health literacy interventions across the wider community in Ireland in an effort to improve health outcomes.

As the only NGO at the workshop, the Irish Heart Foundation was invited by the WHO to present its plans for its unique health literacy initiative in Ireland to tackle childhood obesity.

Ranked as the most serious public health challenge of 21st century, childhood obesity is responsible for 85,000 premature deaths among the present generation of Irish children and currently 25 per cent Irish young people overweight or obese.

The Irish Heart Foundation’s health literacy project will target post primary schools primarily in disadvantaged areas. Working with students, teachers, the community and a technology partner, the Irish Heart Foundation will develop a programme aimed at improving health literacy in these schools around childhood obesity with the aim of reducing the risk of heart disease.

The initiative will focus on health inequalities with the hope that it can be rolled out on a national basis.

“We were delighted to present as a WHO National Health Literacy Demonstration Project,"

Ms Janis Morrissey, Head of Health Promotion, Information and Training, The Irish Heart Foundation

Commenting Ms Janis Morrissey, Head of Health Promotion, Information and Training at the Irish Heart Foundation said, “We were delighted to present as a WHO National Health Literacy Demonstration Project, sharing our vision for how an innovative co-designed intervention with young people using cutting-edge technology could transform their ability to seek and apply health information in their lives while also supporting teachers to deliver the Wellbeing Curriculum.”

The WHO is currently in the process of establishing a WHO European Action Network on Health Literacy for Prevention and Control of NCDs. This network will be instrumental in building peoples’ individual and collective capacity to become informed participants in health decision-making and in enabling real progress towards beating NCDs.

The work of the European Action Network will be based on global and national health literacy experience. It will support demonstration projects from countries in the Region as well as experience-sharing to improve efforts to fight NCDs and strengthen mental health throughout the life-course in different settings.

The WHO recognises that health literacy is one of the key health promotion pillars for achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. More specifically, building health literacy supports Members States’ work to reach Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3.4, which aims to reduce NCD mortality by one third.

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childhood obesity health knowledge health literacy Health Promotion Irish Heart Foundation WHO World Health Organisation

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