Health Literacy

Digital Health Literacy

Digital health literacy is the ability to search for, find, understand, and evaluate health information from computer-based sources, and then apply the knowledge gained to address or solve a health problem. The digitization of healthcare continues to penetrate our everyday lives. Digital helpers such as smartphones, laptops or apps are hard to imagine life without, and the amount of health information on the web is constantly increasing. The Corona pandemic has accelerated this development even further in order to be able to make decisions in everyday life in the areas of health promotion (to maintain and strengthen health), prevention (to prevent complaints or illnesses) and health care (for existing complaints or illnesses) that contribute to maintaining or improving quality of life and health throughout the life course.

Digital health literacy is based on a similar understanding as general health literacy. It focuses on digitally available health-related information via digital communication technologies and media, such as the Internet, social media, and apps. It takes into account the user's individual, social, and technical competencies and resources that are important for searching, finding, understanding, evaluating, and applying digitally available health information. Competence in the use of digital technologies is assumed, although it is clear that there are more adept and less adept individuals in the use of digital technologies.

Consequences of low health literacy

People's health literacy is related to both their health, their health behaviors, and their use of the health care system. Low health literacy has a number of negative impacts on health, such as more frequent late diagnoses, lower adherence to treatment, poorer self-management skills, and higher risks for chronic disease. At the population level, low health literacy imposes high costs on the health care system.

People with low overall health literacy

▪ have poorer physical activity and dietary behaviors and higher BMI,

▪ assess their health situation worse and are more frequently affected by chronic diseases and health-related limitations in everyday life,

▪ cope worse with chronic diseases,

▪ make greater use of the health care system (e.g., general practitioners, specialists, outpatient treatment, and emergency services), and

▪ spend more days on sick leave.

The DHeLiDA project aims to enable citizens to better manage their health and illness, improve prevention, provide more accurate diagnosis and treatment, and facilitate communication with health professionals. It will also help ensure more equitable access to health care while facilitating access to health information for adults with fewer opportunities and access to reliable sources on a topic as important as health, especially in this time of global health emergency.