Patient education and health literacy

Authors Harriët Wittink, Janke Oosterhaven
Published in Musculoskeletal Science and Practice
Publication date 2018
Research groups Lifestyle and Health
Type Article


Introduction: Patient education is a relatively new science within the field of health care. In the past it consisted mainly of the transfer of knowledge and mostly biomedically based advice. Research has shown this to not be effective and sometimes counterproductive. As health care has moved away from applying a traditional paternalistic approach of ‘doctor knows best’ to a patient-centered care approach, patient education must be tailored to meet persons' individual needs. Purpose: The purpose of this master paper is to increase awareness of patients' health literacy levels. Health literacy is linked to literacy and entails people's knowledge, motivation and competences to access, understand, appraise and apply health information in order to make judgments and take decisions in everyday life concerning health care, disease prevention and health promotion to maintain or improve quality of life during the life course. Many patients have low health literacy skills, and have difficulty with reading, writing, numeracy, communication, and, increasingly, the use of electronic technology, which impede access to and understanding of health care information. Implications: Multiple professional organizations recommend using universal health literacy precautions to provide understandable and accessible information to all patients, regardless of their literacy or education levels. This includes avoiding medical jargon, breaking down information or instructions into small concrete steps, limiting the focus of a visit to three key points or tasks, and assessing for comprehension by using the teach back cycle. Printed information should be written at or below sixth-grade reading level. Visual aids can enhance patient understanding.

On this publication contributed

Language English
Published in Musculoskeletal Science and Practice
Key words patient education, health literacy, biopsychosocial, patient-centered care
Digital Object Identifier
Page range 120-127

Harriët Wittink