Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BioPsychoSocial Medicine and BioMed Central.

Open Access Highly Accessed Review

Health literacy and health communication

Hirono Ishikawa* and Takahiro Kiuchi

Author Affiliations

Department of Health Communication, Graduate School of Medicine, The University of Tokyo, 7-3-1 Hongo, Bunkyo, Tokyo, Japan

For all author emails, please log on.

BioPsychoSocial Medicine 2010, 4:18  doi:10.1186/1751-0759-4-18

Published: 5 November 2010

Abstract

Health communication consists of interpersonal or mass communication activities focused on improving the health of individuals and populations. Skills in understanding and applying information about health issues are critical to this process and may have a substantial impact on health behaviors and health outcomes. These skills have recently been conceptualized in terms of health literacy (HL). This article introduces current concepts and measurements of HL, and discusses the role of HL in health communication, as well as future research directions in this domain. Studies of HL have increased dramatically during the past few years, but a gap between the conceptual definition of HL and its application remains. None of the existing instruments appears to completely measure the concept of HL. In particular, studies on communication/interaction and HL remain limited. Furthermore, HL should be considered not only in terms of the characteristics of individuals, but also in terms of the interactional processes between individuals and their health and social environments. Improved HL may enhance the ability and motivation of individuals to find solutions to both personal and public health problems, and these skills could be used to address various health problems throughout life. The process underpinning HL involves empowerment, one of the major goals of health communication.