Importance of Health Literacy in Women

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Health misinformation is pervasive and can spread rapidly through various channels, including social media, websites, word-of-mouth, and even traditional media outlets. Misinformation about health topics can have serious consequences, as it may lead individuals to make uninformed decisions about their health, delay seeking medical treatment, or even engage in harmful practices.

Being a female has a significant impact on health. It profoundly influences health outcomes, owing to a combination of biological factors and gender-related disparities. Health literacy plays a crucial role in empowering women. Providing women with education and training in various fields is a key factor for their empowerment, prosperity, and well-being. Low health literacy has adverse effects on a woman’s comprehension of health information, adoption of preventive measures, navigation of healthcare systems, and ability to attend to her children’s health needs.

Why is health literacy necessary?

Health literacy has been defined as a measure of competence attained by people to access, understand, and apply health information to promote positive health decisions. 

Women’s health requires special attention due to prevalent societal discrimination rooted in cultural norms. Among the various sociocultural factors contributing to inadequate health services and suboptimal health levels for middle-aged women, social norms play a significant role, often resulting in limited education and health literacy.

Middle-aged women experience numerous biopsychosocial changes, with menopause introducing both physical and psychological challenges. They are susceptible to osteoporosis, heart disease, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, sexually transmitted diseases such as acquired immune deficiency syndrome and hepatitis and so on. That is why health literacy is important for them. 

Given the recognised vulnerabilities associated with both gender and ageing, the enhancement of women’s health during crises emerges as a critical priority falling under the purview of the World Health Organization’s Health Action in Crisis responsibilities. WHO proposes health literacy and women empowerment as two pivotal components of maternal health improvement programs. 

Maternal Health Literacy 

Pregnancy is a remarkable and transformative experience for a woman marked by significant physical, emotional, and social changes. Adequate knowledge of prenatal care and self-care practices contributes to a healthy and fulfilling pregnancy journey. 

A pregnant woman should be aware of the knowledge, skills, and abilities that expecting and new mothers possess to understand maternal and child health. Maternal health literacy encompasses various aspects of healthcare, including pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum care, newborn care, and parenting. Overall, improving health literacy among expecting and new mothers can lead to better maternal and child health outcomes by empowering them to make informed decisions, access appropriate healthcare services, and actively engage in their own and their baby’s care.

How to promote health literacy?

Promoting health literacy involves various strategies aimed at empowering individuals to access, understand, and utilise health information effectively. Implementing educational programs in schools, workplaces, and communities to enhance understanding of health-related topics, including nutrition and disease prevention works best. Accessing reliable online health resources and tools that offer accurate information and support self-directed learning is another way to spread health literacy. Offering authentic health information in simple language ensures that it is easily understood by diverse audiences. Similarly, utilising interactive methods such as workshops, group discussions, and interactive websites to engage individuals in learning about health topics and practicing health-promoting behaviours helps a lot in disseminating reliable information.

Shared by: Neelam Singh,

Head- Information and Fact-checking, The Healthy Indian Project (THIP)



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