Health Literacy as a Personal Asset: The Circle of Health as a Collaborative Tool

Philip Girvan StFX University Atlantic Summer Institute Charlottetown, PE August 20, 2010

Presentation Objectives:
1. Discuss the two emerging models of health literacy 2. Explore using the Circle of Health© (1996) as a practical, hands-on tool, to promote health literacy.

Expert panel on health literacy's definition of health literacy (CPHA, 2008) ‡ The ability to access, understand, evaluate, and communicate information as a way to promote, maintain and improve health in a number of settings across the lifecourse.

‡ >60% of Canadians do not have ³the skills necessary to manage their own health to an acceptable degree´ (Canadian Council on Learning, 2007). ‡ The elderly, the unemployed, and immigrants have been identified as particularly vulnerable to health literacy issues (Canadian Council on Learning, 2008).

Health literacy as a clinical risk

Nutbeam 2008: 2074

Health literacy as a personal asset

Nutbeam, 2008: 2076

‡ One on one semi-structured interviews with 3 English as an Additional Language teachers

‡ Teachers who defined health in terms of wellbeing defined health literacy in terms akin to Nutbeam¶s personal asset model. ‡ Those teachers felt they had a role in developing students¶ health literacy. Others did not.

Health literacy as a personal asset
‡ the µasset¶ concept lends itself to a broader application outside of health care settings for example into schools, adult learning, and community development programs (Nutbeam, 2008).

Implications of interpreting health literacy as a personal asset
‡ Health literacy transcends the individual. ‡ Health literacy also transcends the clinical encounter. ‡ Individual and systems barriers affecting health literacy.

The Expert Panel noted the following systems barriers
1.lack of affordable English/French as an Additional Language programs and community-based literacy upgrading programs; 2.inadequate workplace training and education; 3.confusing or conflicting health information from the media and the Internet; 4.complex health systems; and, 5.lack of awareness and knowledge about health literacy among health and literacy professionals.

Circle of Health© (1996)
‡ Can stimulate discussion regarding how the social determinants of health interact and intersect to influence health. ‡ Learners cooperate & collaborate to develop critical health literacy skills. ‡ Valuable for curriculum design & lesson planning.

‡ Canadian Council on Learning. Health Literacy in Canada: Initial Results From the International Adult Literacy and Skills Survey. Ottawa, ON. 2007. ‡ Canadian Council of Learning. Health Literacy in Canada: A Healthy Understanding 2008. Ottawa. Ottawa, ON. 2008. ‡ Mitchell, T., & Beattie-Huggan, P. ³Determinants of health approaches: The circle of health as a synthesis tool´. International Journal of Health Promotion and Education 44 (2). 2006. 78-82 ‡ Nutbeam, D. ³The Evolving Concept of Health Literacy´. Social Science & Medicine 67. 2008. 2072-2078. ‡ Rootman, I. & Gordon-El-Bihbety, D. A Vision for a Health Literate Canada: Report of the Expert Panel on Health Literacy. Canadian Public Health Association. 2008.

Contact information
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This presentation opportunity would be impossible without the support of the National Collaborating Centres for Public Health, St. Francis Xavier University, and the organizers of the Atlantic Summer Institute on Healthy and Safe Communities. Thanks to them & thanks to you.

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