Health literacy on the menu at the European Parliament

On Wednesday 28 January, AGE Platform Europe, EuroHealthNet and Austrian Member of the European Parliament Mr. Heinz Becker organised a policy debate on health literacy at the European Parliament. The debate was organised in the framework of the IROHLA project, an EU project on health literacy of older people in which AGE is partner.

Experts in the field of public health, civil society organisations, industry representatives and EU policy makers were invited to discuss health literacy and the development of IROHLA health literacy guidelines over lunch in the Members' Saloon at the European Parliament.

In his welcome speech, Mr. Becker pointed out that politicians at all levels are looking for ways to make better use of resources in health care, and therefore he is very interested in learning about evidence-based interventions for improving health literacy.

IROHLA's comprehensive approach

While lunch was being served, the scientific coordinator of the IROHLA project, Dr. Andrea de Winter, presented IROHLA and its comprehensive approach to strengthen health literacy, which focuses both on the individual and his or her social environment as well as the health system.

Ms. Caroline Costongs, director of EuroHealthNet, chaired the debate, in which several participants shared their experiences from all over Europe in addressing inequities in health and developing national and local policies to create better health for vulnerable groups.

The group could agree that identifying models of good practice and developing and testing interventions, just like IROHLA does, is a good way to address health inequalities and policy makers should include health literacy in strategies to address health inequalities.

It is important to remember that health literacy is not only about individuals' skills but also about the social environment and the health system. For example health literacy should also be seen as a professional skill. Care givers play an important role in older peoples' daily lives and health systems should strengthen health literacy capacities of these workers.

Health literacy friendly environments

Anne-Sophie Parent, Secretary General of AGE Platform Europe, talked about the importance of health literacy for older people in Europe. Health literacy is a very good way to empower old people, said Ms Parent, who also encouraged everyone interested in health literacy friendly environments to join the broader innovation network on age-friendly environments, AFE-INNOVNET, which is a network in which many local and regional organisations are active.

Effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of interventions

Bartosz Hackbart, Policy Officer at DG Health and Food Safety at the European Commission commented that the Commission is very eager to see the results from projects that evaluate health literacy interventions and also projects that look into the cost-effectiveness of implementing different interventions.

In her closing remark, Dr. Jeannette Rademakers from the Netherlands' Institute for Health Services Research concluded that there are many studies in the USA that give evidence to the effectiveness of different health literacy interventions and fewer in the EU. There are not as many studies that measure the cost-effectiveness, and that this will be an important task for health literacy researchers in the future.

Visit IROHLA website for more information about health literacy and the project

On Wednesday 28 January, AGE Platform Europe, EuroHealthNet and Austrian Member of the European Parliament Mr. Heinz Becker organised a policy debate on health literacy at the European Parliament. The debate was organised in the framework of the IROHLA project, an EU project on health literacy of older people in which AGE is partner. Experts in the field of public health, civil society organisations, industry representatives and EU policy makers were invited to discuss health literacy and the development of IROHLA health literacy guidelines over lunch in the Members' Saloon at the European Parliament. In his welcome speech, Mr. Becker pointed out that politicians at all levels are looking for ways to make better use of resources in health care, and therefore he is very interested in learning about evidence-based interventions for improving health literacy. IROHLA's comprehensive approach While lunch was being served, the scientific coordinator of the IROHLA project, Dr. Andrea de Winter, presented IROHLA and its comprehensive approach to strengthen health literacy, which focuses both on the individual and his or her social environment as well as the health system. Ms. Caroline Costongs, director of EuroHealthNet, chaired the debate, in which several participants shared their experiences from all over Europe in addressing inequities in health and developing national and local policies to create better health for vulnerable groups. The group could agree that identifying models of good practice and developing and testing interventions, just like IROHLA does, is a good way to address health inequalities and policy makers should include health literacy in strategies to address health inequalities. It is important to remember that health literacy is not only about individuals' skills but also about the social environment and the health system. For example health literacy should also be seen as a professional skill. Care givers play an important role in older peoples' daily lives and health systems should strengthen health literacy capacities of these workers. Health literacy friendly environments Anne-Sophie Parent, Secretary General of AGE Platform Europe, talked about the importance of health literacy for older people in Europe. Health literacy is a very good way to empower old people, said Ms Parent, who also encouraged everyone interested in health literacy friendly environments to join the broader innovation network on age-friendly environments, AFE-INNOVNET, which is a network in which many local and regional organisations are active. Effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of interventions Bartosz Hackbart, Policy Officer at DG Health and Food Safety at the European Commission commented that the Commission is very eager to see the results from projects that evaluate health literacy interventions and also projects that look into the cost-effectiveness of implementing different interventions. In her closing remark, Dr. Jeannette Rademakers from the Netherlands' Institute for Health Services Research concluded that there are many studies in the USA that give evidence to the effectiveness of different health literacy interventions and fewer in the EU. There are not as many studies that measure the cost-effectiveness, and that this will be an important task for health literacy researchers in the future. Visit IROHLA website for more information about health literacy and the project

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