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Creating a Knowledge Hub in Health Literacy and Chronic Disease Management

Posted: 10 January, 2014

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“Low health literacy is a serious and costly problem that will likely grow as the population ages and the incidence of chronic disease increases.”
– Canadian Expert Panel on Health Literacy, 2008, p.43


Low health literacy has tremendous impact on quality of health care and patient outcomes. Three out of ten Canadians are at the lowest level of general literacy, impacting their ability to read medication labels, easily understand written instructions or follow treatment recommendations. Ongoing management of a chronic disease relies heavily on a patient’s ability to self-manage care; this ability is compromised when a patient is unable to fully comprehend his or her diagnosis and treatment. With chronic disease on the rise in Canada, it is critical to better understand both health literacy and its impact on chronic disease management.

There is an identified need for a common conceptual framework for health literacy that can guide practitioners, researchers and policymakers. There is also a need for appropriate measurement tools to assess current levels of health literacy and gauge the effectiveness of health literacy interventions within the context of chronic disease management and beyond.

In response to this, the UBC Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies and the Institute for Heart + Lung Health hosted a four-day international roundtable on health literacy and chronic disease management.

The goals of the roundtable included expanding on previous definitions and measurements of health literacy. The roundtable oral presentations, panels, and debates brought researchers, practitioners, and knowledge-users one step closer to providing a better understanding about the nature of health literacy relative to involved stakeholders, the health care system’s role and policy implications, and more precise measurement. The results have both broadened the general understanding of health literacy as well as extended health literacy general research, practice, and policy focus to include the context of chronic disease management.

Click here to read the International Roundtable Discussion Report from the event.

Videos from the event are available here.