Listening to patients: How understanding health information use can contribute to health literacy constructs


  • Copyright 2010 Maria Souden and Ellen L. Rubenstein

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This panel focuses on expanding concepts of health literacy by exploring how the acquisition and use of health information through the context of people's daily lives significantly enhances their understanding and implementation of both acute and chronic health treatment and management. Prevalent health literacy initiatives emphasize core information literacy skills and concerns by addressing issues such as readability, clarity in communication, and appropriate vetting of online health information sources; however, these measures do not address the intricate ways in which people interact with and use information when making decisions about their health.

In this session, researchers working within a variety of cross-disciplinary arenas and contexts, including information science, communications, nursing, medicine, health services, and public health, will engage with the question of how information behavior-based studies can impart additional dimensions to an understanding of health literacy beyond basic literacy skills and information delivery. We argue that information behavior perspectives can enrich the conceptual base of health literacy, contributing a deeper understanding of people's engagement with and use of health information in the context of their lived experience with health conditions.

The six panelists will provide insight into additional dimensions of experience relevant to health literacy, including how people identify and understand their information needs, how interpersonal sources are considered as health information, the value of experience-based or peer information, and how engagement in online communities, families, and social networks contributes to how health information is experienced, considered, evaluated, used, and applied in negotiating health and illness.