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Health literacy and the role of technology in Europe

Workshop hashtag: #eHealthSTOA

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Written by Gianluca Quaglio and Sara Cagol

Developments in science and technology give access to much health-related information we could not have imagined a few years ago – but are we sufficiently health-literate to take responsibility for our own health, as well as that of our family and community? On 1 July 2015, the Science and Technology Options Assessment (STOA) Panel of the European Parliament will host a workshop entitled Health Literacy in Europe. Empowering patients – how can technology contribute to improving health literacy?, which will seek an answer to this and many other questions. The workshop will be chaired by Dr Paul Rübig, STOA Chair. Karin Kadenback, MEP and member of the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI), will close the event.

© vege / Fotolia

Health literacy, according to a widely-accepted definition, is ‘linked to literacy and entails people’s knowledge, motivation and competences to access, understand, appraise and apply health information in order to make judgements, and take decisions in everyday life concerning health care, disease prevention and health promotion to maintain or improve quality of life during the life course’. However, the health literacy concept is much broader than this, and includes interesting fields of application for new technologies.

Technological improvements raise new challenges, as well as opportunities to achieve health literacy. On the one hand, new technologies, such as progress in genomics, confront citizens with complex decisions that require a better understanding of the health-related issues that could affect them. On the other hand, technology provides ways in which patients could be monitored via the Internet. e-Health and m-Health are healthcare practices supported by electronic devices, such as mobile phones, tablets or computers. They offer immediate personalised support, storing and monitoring patient data. Therefore, benefiting from the opportunities and tackling the challenges related to healthcare technologies requires significant health literacy levels among citizens.

The workshop will be organised in two parts. In the first session, Kristine Sorensen, from the University of Maastricht, Roberto Bertollini, World Health Organisation (WHO) representative to the European Union, and Kaisa Immonen-Charalambous, from the European Patients’ Forum (EPF), will be discussing on best practices to deliver health literacy, and what such an empowerment will look like. The speakers will also discuss why health literacy levels across the EU remain rather low.

In the second part, Marc Lange, from the European Health Telematics Association (EHTEL), Inés Madurga, from the Pharmaceutical Group of the European Union (PGEU), Irina Dinca, from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), and Terje Peetso, from DG Connect at the European Commission, will debate the role that technology could play in increasing health literacy in Europe. Both e-Health and m-Health will be presented as new and innovative ways to improve healthcare delivery, and the need to teach people how to get the most from the information available will be discussed.

If you are wondering whether and how you will be your own medical doctor in the future, come and ask the question yourself by registering here.

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