Professional health literacy - first results of a pilot study in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland
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Careum Center for Health Literacy Switzerland
University of Bielefeld, Germany
Gesundheit Österreich GmbH, Austria
Careum Center for Health Literacy
Hertie School Berlin Germany
Publication date: 2023-04-26
Popul. Med. 2023;5(Supplement):A1866
Population’s health literacy (HL) is low in many countries, including Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. To improve HL of the population, health professionals (HP) play an essential role. However, there is a lack of a clear definition, concept, and reliable data on professional HL of HP so far.

A new concept of professional HL and a survey instrument were developed and applied in a quantitative pilot study in all three countries. The four defined key tasks of professional HL are knowledge and information management, knowledge and information explanation, communication, and professional digital HL. Data on corresponding items were collected in 2022 by online surveys. 921 nurses and physicians in Germany, 3,876 nurses, physicians, and physiotherapists in Austria, and 1,613 nurses, physicians, physiotherapists, and pharmacists in Switzerland were surveyed. Based on the answers, 4 dimensions and 6 sub-dimensions of professional HL were found and related to aspects linked to training and job.

In all three countries HP report greatest difficulties in strengthening digital HL of patients, while enabling patient-centred conversation and explaining information are considered less challenging. Even though difficulties vary between HP, in Switzerland, physicians report less difficulties in most of the four key tasks. In Austria this is mostly the case for physiotherapists. In Germany, differences between the professions are mostly small. The results indicate that HP are generally unfamiliar with the concept of HL and communication techniques are unfamiliar accordingly. Moreover, most HP reported inadequate education in communication and information explanation.

Professional HL is essential to improve patients’ HL. The results show a need for action as well as for further research in this field. Efforts in supporting HP should be taken to adequately address patients’ HL and enable them to improve their health and well-being by including key tasks in the education of HP.

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