Health Literacy in Medical Education: Promoting Empowerment as a Patient-Centred Care Approach
Health Literacy in Medical Education: Promoting Empowerment as a Patient-Centred Care ApproachPhilip GirvanBackground/Purpose:A patient-centered approach positions the patient at the centre of health practices, policies, curricula,and pedagogies. In order to practice in a patient-centred manner, health professionals must take intoaccount the multiple social complexities of the patient, not the least of which is health literacy. It istherefore important to consider how and where issues of health literacy are being addressed inundergraduate medical education.Methodology:This proposed presentation will report on a systematic literature review, critical analysis and synthesis ofthe following bodies of literature: patient-centered care; health literacy; medical education. The reviewfocused on articles published in English in peer-reviewed health professional education journalsbetween 01 January 2000 and 31 December 2010.Results:Health literacy encompasses knowledge, understanding, and access to and control of resources thatpromote and maintain satisfactory health and wellbeing. It is the outcome of such diverse abilities asreading, writing, numeracy, the ability to access information, and critical thinking. A surprisingly smallproportion of the literature in the area of patient-centred care focuses on health literacy as adeterminant of health and well being. An even smaller proportion of the literature considered healthliteracy as an issue of concern to be addressed in the education of future physicians.Conclusions/Discussion:The dearth of related literature indicates that there is much work to be done in considering how issuesof health literacy might be addressed in patient-centred medical education. An emphasis on healthliteracy in medical education will have implications on power relations in educational settings as well asin, and beyond, the clinical encounter.