EU: New website to promote health literacy
2 - Summary:
In 2012, the European Commission plans to challenge poor health literacy levels in Europe with a new internet-based comprehensive search tool.
3 - Description:
The 'Health in Europe: Information and Data Interface' (Heidi) site - currently available in wiki beta version - is intended to be a one stop-shop on health information and data concerning such topics as health status,
The Commission's Directorate General for Health and Consumers has set up and maintains Heidi, but the information is to be updated by public health experts, researchers, civil society and national authorities. Its technical infrastructure is ready; however, the content still needs to be refined and made more user-friendly. Users are being asked to contribute feedback and suggestions during the test phase.
The move has been planned over a long period but is being sped up in light of a recent report that half of all Europeans have inadequate or problematic levels of health literacy - with some glaring differences between member states. This could include taking the wrong dose of medication because of misunderstood information about the prescription.
The study was conducted in summer 2011 by a consortium led by Maastricht University, using data on health literacy across eight European countries (Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland and Spain).
It measured the ability of people to access, understand, analyse and apply health information to make decisions allowing them to maintain their health, prevent diseases and seek treatment in case of illness. Nearly half (47 %) of people surveyed showed limited health literacy, but there were sharp differences between countries ranging from 1.6 % inadequate levels of health literacy in the Netherlands to 26.3 % in Bulgaria.
The project leader, Professor Helmut Brand, said that low health literacy costs the US economy between $ 106-236 billion (approx. € 80-180 billion) annually as people without knowledge of health issues are more likely to be hospitalised, to experience medication and treatment errors, and not seek preventive care.
"Our survey shows that this is also a significant problem in Europe and that it's high time for Europeans to react," Mr Brand said.
The consortium called for concrete actions from European and national policymakers as well as health professionals in order to empower citizens to increase their health literacy. They urged for increased funding to support comprehensive health information and literacy, and to ensure they are considered as part of the selection criteria for EU funding.
4 - Domain:
5 - Topic:
ICT and lifestyle management
ICT for disease prevention and health promotion
ICT for patient safety
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