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Health Literacy

In order to effectively manage their own health, individuals need to have competencies in
two areas-basic literacy and basic health literacy. What is the difference? Basic literacy
refers to the ability to read, even simple language. Health literacy is defined as, “the degree
to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health
information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions” (National Coalition
for Literacy, 2009). Unfortunately, according to a Department of Education report on
health literacy, only 12% of adults aged 16 and older are considered to have a proficient
level of health literacy (U.S. Department of Education, 2006). Acquiring health literacy
skills has become more complicated with the explosion of online health information, some
credible and some misleading.
In this Discussion, you focus on how to help individuals find credible information on the
Internet and develop strategies nurses can use to increase the health literacy of their
To prepare:
�Think about the nurse’s role in improving the health literacy of patients.
�Consider the many ways patients access health information, including blogs, social
media, patient portals, websites, etc.
�Reflect on experiences you have had with patients who self-diagnose using online medical
�Using the Internet, the Walden Library, or other trustworthy sources, identify a resource
that you could introduce to patients to help them evaluate the credibility of health
information found online.
�What are some strategies you could employ to improve the health literacy of patients?

Post on or before Day 3 your assessment of the nurse’s role in improving the health literacy
of patients. Then, identify the resource you would recommend to patients for evaluating
online health information and why it would be beneficial. Describe additional strategies for
assisting patients in becoming informed consumers of online health information.

Health Literacy

So as to ensure that individuals are in a better position to manage their health, there is a
need for competencies in basic health literacy and basic literacy. In the US, only 12% of the
adults aged 16 years and more have proficient health literacy levels. Gaining health literacy skills
has been made difficult by the online health information explosion where some is misleading and
other credible. According to Nutbeam (2012), nurses have a role of increasing their patients’
health literacy.
Nurses can promote health literacy through promotion, education, and health literacy
research. They have an ethical and professional obligation to communicate in a purposeful and

clear way that considers every patient’s unique information needs. Nurses should incorporate
evidence-based approaches that enhance health literacy in each patient’s care plan and this
should be made a component of the routine nursing practice. During all interactions with
patients, nurses should have a goal of empowering patients to comprehend, obtain, as well as act
on information which is essential for optimal health (Nutbeam, 2012).
There are some resources that patients can use to evaluate if online health information is
credible. It is important to consider the information’s source keenly and then, discuss the
information acquired with the health care professional. Some answers regarding the sponsorship,
currency, factual information, and the audience helps in determining whether the information is
credible or not.
It is important that patients are aware of and can use online health information
effectively. Health care professionals can ensure that patients are informed consumers through
acting as the intermediaries between the internet and patients, coming up with sites and directing
patients there for reliable information, and advocating for sites’ endorsement by professional
organizations (Nutbeam, 2012). Professionals should guide patients that internet sites that have
the designation ‘org’ for organization and ‘edu’ for educational institutions are generally reliable.



Nutbeam, D. (2012). Health literacy as a public health goal: a challenge for contemporary health
education and communication strategies into the 21st century. Health promotion
international, 15(3), 259-267.

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