Schools health literacy project to tackle health inequality

By June Shannon Policy News   |   20th Mar 2019

The Irish Heart Foundation presented details of its new schools health literacy project at the 4th European Health Literacy Conference recently

The Irish Heart Foundation is embarking on a new project aimed at improving health literacy levels in post-primary school students in Ireland.

Good health literacy means being able to find, understand, appraise and apply health information.

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.

The Irish Heart Foundation’s Schools Health Literacy project is a registered World Health Organisation (WHO) National Health Literacy Demonstration Project and the first such project to focus on primary prevention and young people.

This unique project has two aims. Firstly, in partnership with researchers in University College Dublin (UCD) it will measure levels of health literacy in post-primary school students and secondly, with the support of experts in Dublin City University, develop a schools-based technological intervention to improve health literacy levels.

Good health literacy means being able to find, understand, appraise and apply health information.

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The Irish Heart Foundation’s project will focus on post-primary schools in disadvantaged areas and working with students aged 12 -16 and their families collect baseline data on the levels of health literacy. Then based on this data, design and implement an intervention to improve the students’ understanding and knowledge of cardiovascular disease and childhood obesity.

Crucially, this intervention will be designed and developed by the students themselves. It will also use a whole school and community approach and support the delivery of the wellbeing curriculum.

Representatives from the Irish Heart Foundation presented details of the new project at the 4th European Health Literacy Conference which was hosted by Health Literacy Europe and UCD last week (March 14-15, 2019).

A total of 215 delegates from 33 countries across the world joined the discussions including representatives from the World Health Organisation and the OECD.

The European Health Literacy Conference is a platform for the European health literacy community of researchers, decision-makers and practitioners to discuss and develop solutions and ideas for the improvement of individual and societal aspects of health literacy in relation to e.g. children and adolescents, digital health, migration, self-management, and policy development.

“The conference was a great opportunity to update local and international stakeholders on progress to date with the Irish Heart Foundation’s Schools Health Literacy Project.”

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

Commenting Janis Morrissey, Head of Health Promotion, Information and Training at the Irish Heart Foundation said, “The conference was a great opportunity to update local and international stakeholders on progress to date with the Irish Heart Foundation’s Schools Health Literacy Project.”

“The focus of the Foundation’s project tied in with the conference themes of health inequalities and evidence-based actions,” she added.

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 to improve health outcomes.

The Irish Heart Foundation’s health literacy initiative will focus on health inequalities with the hope that it can be rolled out on a national basis.

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cardiovascular disease childhood obesity disadvantaged health inequality health literacy technology

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