WHO Report Showcases Irish Heart Foundation Project

By June Shannon Policy News   |   18th Nov 2022

Irish Heart Foundation’s Schools’ Health Literacy project showcased by the World Health Organisation

A project developed by the Irish Heart Foundation has been showcased in a new report on health literacy from the World Health Organization (WHO).

Chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, lung disease and mental health issues – are the world’s biggest health problems, and this burden is growing. The new WHO report sets out practical health literacy developments that can be used to improve health and equity around the world.

Good health literacy means being able to find, understand, appraise and apply health information. It has also been recognised as a determinant of health in its own right and as a life skill for everyone not just those living with a health condition.

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 report showcases several WHO National Health Literacy Demonstration Projects (NHLDPs) or case studies from around the world including one from the Irish Heart Foundation. The Irish Heart Foundation’s Schools’ Health Literacy Project is highlighted as one of just 16 WHO NHLDPs worldwide, the only Irish project featured in the report.

Making health information more widely available and in a manner that is easily understood is key to reducing health inequality

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The Irish Heart Foundation’s Schools’ Health Literacy Project is also the only WHO NHLDP project working with young people in schools. This project focuses on creating a supportive environment for health literacy in schools targeting health inequalities. The Irish Heart Foundation’s children and young people team is co-designing an intervention with representative whole school communities that sits inside the Well-being Framework for schools and is tailored to the needs of disadvantaged schools.

In partnership with researchers at University College Dublin (UCD), the Irish Heart Foundation’s health literacy project will also co-design and roll out a tool to measure levels of health literacy in post-primary school students and, with the support of academics in Dublin City University, develop an out of school ‘Lifelab’ intervention to improve health literacy levels.

According to the WHO report, “National Health Literacy Demonstration Projects (NHLDPs) seek to systematize the development of informed health literacy actions in diverse contexts in Member States. The long-term purpose of NHLDPs is to promote and support sustainable and scalable health literacy development and responsiveness actions in communities, organizations, health systems, and local, regional and national policies to accelerate prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs).”

Writing in the report WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “A key enabler to accelerating progress towards the NCD targets in the Sustainable Development Goals is health literacy, to support people, communities and organizations to understand, recognize and take effective actions to protect and promote their own health.”

“ The Irish Heart Foundation is honoured to be invited to showcase our work in such a high-level report."

Janis Morrissey, Director of Health Promotion , The Irish Heart Foundation

Commenting Janis Morrissey, Director of Health Promotion at the Irish Heart Foundation said, “The Irish Heart Foundation is honoured to be invited to showcase our work in such a high-level report. Our health literacy project is unique in being led by an NGO, with a focus on young people and health promotion and builds upon our longstanding work in schools. We are excited to place the voice of young people in underserved communities at the centre of every stage of development and build a fit-for-purpose intervention that responds to their needs and is aligned with the Well-being framework.”

Director of the Centre for Global Health and Equity, Distinguished Professor Richard Osborne said, “People rarely make health decisions in isolation. Each of us are informed by our families and friends, the media, influencers, cultural and societal expectations, companies, institutions, services, and systems.

“For governments to take action, policies need to be based on a deep understanding of what individuals and communities actually experience, how they think, what they really need, and what is actually possible – and policies must be based on a deep understanding of health literacy. Importantly, this report will inform health and equity transformation in low- and middle-income countries, as well as in high-income countries, like Australia.”

The WHO Health Literacy Development report can be found here

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health inequality health literacy Irish Heart Foundation Schools' Health literacy WHO World Health Organisation

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