Importance of Health Literacy in Aftercare & Healthcare Intervention


What is Health literacy [1]

Before we delve further into what constitutes health literacy and its importance, let us have a look at what exactly is health literacy?

There are 2 main components to health literacy:

  1. Personal health literacy → is the degree to which individuals have the ability to find, understand, and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others
  2. Organisational health literacy → is the degree to which organizations equitably enable individuals to find, understand, and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others.
    Overall, health literacy just means any mediums to which individuals are gaining, understanding and implementing good health information and resources in order to make good health decisions.

Some definitions slightly differ for instance:

    • Emphasise people’s ability to use health information rather than just understand it
    • Focus on the ability to make “well-informed” decisions rather than “appropriate” ones
    • Acknowledge that organizations have a responsibility to address health literacy
    • Incorporate a public health perspective

How Do We Implement Good Health Literacy to Communities? [2]

Curating health literacy policies is one thing, however, implementation is another. People are generally extremely inquisitive about where they get their information from, especially with regards to health and safety — oftentimes, it’s not about what you said, it’s how you say it. Miscommunication of public health information is almost repetitive, too complex, and too vague for the public. The CDC has a formed a unique space to be a serve as a tool for accurate and actionable steps for better public health safety, as they try to:

  • Prevent harm or disease
  • Understand diagnosis
  • Decide treatments
  • Evaluate risks to their health

Now that we know the “what” we should say, what about the “how?”. Integration for clear communication for health literacy in Public Health Planning, Funding, Policy, Development, Research, and Evaluation is not only vital but will determine the success of your policy implementation. Communication bears the greatest weight to deliver an effective message to the public, influence, and trust from the public are essential.

Why is Health Literacy so Important? [3]

At some point of our lives we all should be able to find, understand and articulate health information and services. Taking care of our health is vital for our everyday life, not just when visiting a doctor, clinic or hospital but prevention methods to protect our health benefits us in the long run. Although many are fortunately literate, it is significantly surprising how some of them still face health literacy issues, especially when:

  • They aren’t familiar with medical terms or how their bodies work.
  • They have to interpret statistics and evaluate risks and benefits that affect their health and safety.
  • They are diagnosed with a serious illness and are scared and confused.
  • They have health conditions that require complicated self-care.
  • They are voting on an issue affecting the community’s health and relying on unfamiliar technical information.

How Good is Malaysia’s Health Literacy Rate? [4]

Health literacy will cause a snowball effect where once people aren’t aware of a disease, they aren’t able to identify what are the root causes of the issue and thus preventing them from treating the disease. A study entitled “Respond” looked at the incidence of the prevalence of hypertension among the B40 community in Malaysia and the Philippines where many still consider to have a poor understanding of how to manage hypertension

“As part of efforts to share the findings from the study with the public, especially the B40 group, a webinar was held.”

“But judging from their questions, there are many who still have a poor understanding of how to best manage hypertension,”

“Many of them thought hypertension can be cured. It can only be managed and they don’t understand that it is a lifelong disease that requires you to be on medication forever.”

— Tan Sri Omar Centre for STI (Science, Technology and Innovation) Policy Studies, Datuk Dr Ahmad Ibrahim

The same study found that about 14% of B40 patients with hypertension are familiar with the illness, about 80% had some idea, while about 3% are ignorant about the illness.

Low health literacy in fact is more apparent with the Covid-19 pandemic, which brings forth very clear evidence when a segment of Malaysians is doubtful about the efficacy of the vaccine, he said.

“(Poor health literacy) explains why people are hesitant to take the vaccination because they don’t really understand and they can be influenced by stories on social media — stories such as the vaccines causing certain effects or that it can stay in them forever,” he added.






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