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40% European citizens have problematic digital health literacy

Digital literacy is defined as the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create and communicate information. This requires both technical skills to operate digital platforms, devices and apps, and cognitive skills for understanding and analysing the information being created.

“About 40% of European citizens have problematic digital health literacy, which means that they cannot use digital health technologies adequately to address their health issues,” says Sarah Wamala Andersson, professor of Health and Welfare Technology at the Mälardalen University in Sweden and a digital health thought leader. Wamala Andersson was among the researchers of the Improving Digital Empowerment for Active Healthy Living (IDEAHL) EU project aimed at developing and testing new models and approaches of digital health literacy intervention development.

What interventions do we need for improved digital health literacy?
The result of the IDEAHL project is the EU digital Health Literacy Strategy. The strategy defines concrete measures required on the micro, meso and macro levels. Key recommendations include the introduction of media literacy and information acquisition topics in primary school curricula on the micro level. These types of micro-level programs should lead to turning strategies into action. Apart from nurturing digital health literacy in basic education, cooperation between homes, schools and other educational institutions is encouraged. On the macro level, each country should create a centralised platform scientifically endorsed by the competent authority in each country to ensure people have access to reliable and comprehensive health resources, including informative articles, videos, interactive tools and forums for discussion and community support.

Digital health literacy is a determinant of health
In Europe, digital transformation is lagging in healthcare, compared with other industries. According to WHO, only one in two countries in Europe and central Aisa has policies to improve digital health literacy, implying that several millions of people are left behind. With the increasing use of technology for data gathering, care coordination, telemedicine and beyond, it is essential to ensure that digital access – or the absence thereof – does not widen the disparity between the healthy and the sick.

“I can imagine that good health will be the most wanted good for many humans in the world, as AI and digital solutions make it possible to live along and enjoy a healthier life,” Wamala Andersson said. “Thus, enhancing digital health literacy will become a natural part of the long-life learning initiatives, where governments will find it inevitable and beneficial to design and invest in policies and interventions that promote digital health literacy of the citizens, healthcare professionals and decision-makers.” Healthcare IT News

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