October is Health Literacy Month, an observance rooted in the recognition that a majority of people have challenges navigating the intricacies of the health-care system and accessing the information they need to effectively advocate for themselves.
The Health Resources and Services Administration (an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services) offers two definitions of health literacy:
Personal health literacy is the degree to which individuals have the ability to find, understand, and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others.
Organizational health literacy is the degree to which organizations equitably enable individuals to find, understand, and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others.
It has been estimated that nearly 36% of adults in the U.S. have low health literacy, and ABC Life Literacy Canada cites stats from the Public Health Agency of Canada that reveal 60% of Canadian adults and 88% of seniors are not health literate.
The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the impact of limited health literacy in the general public, with misinformation about the virus and vaccines spread far and wide.
Fortunately, teaching people the basic skills of media and information literacy (including how to distinguish between genuine news and intentional disinformation) can make a real difference.
A while back, we told you about a study by the Stanford Social Media Lab, which found that people who received training in media literacy — in this case, workshops presented by PEN America that were designed to stem vaccine misinformation in communities of color — displayed “significantly improved” ability to identify and resist mis- and disinformation.
After taking a workshop, participants displayed an increased likelihood to apply their new skills to examining headlines in order to sort facts from untruths. Participants’ investigation of a news headline increased from 6% to 32%, and their ability to detect COVID-19 misinformation improved significantly, from a pre-intervention average of 53% to a post-intervention average of 82%.
How libraries can help
One important way that libraries help maintain community health and wellbeing is giving their patrons access to the health-care information they need. People seeking information about health-related topics typically go to their local library for insight. This is especially true in rural areas and places that have limited internet access.
Librarians can’t offer medical advice, but they can help patrons by pointing them to the appropriate sources of information. By adopting new digital platforms that help them share information with their patrons, libraries keep their communities informed and educated.
Among the 7,000-plus international newspapers and magazines to be found on the world’s largest digital newsstand, PressReader has a number of publications that focus on health and wellness. Here are five of our favorites for your perusal:
Best Health (Canada)
This glossy bi-monthly from the publisher of Reader's Digest features beauty tips and recipes, but it's also not afraid to go a little deeper. The most recent issue, for example, features an interview with Gelardeh Zadeh, a Canadian neurosurgeon who helped develop a blood test that detects brain cancer. Dr. Zadeh offers the following words of wisdom:
So much of our health can turn on a dime. I think the events that determine our lives and shape where we end up are moments we can't actually predict or control. So I truly, firmly believe that I have to live in the moment.
A relatively recent addition to the PressReader catalog, this publication from the United Arab Emirates takes a comprehensive look at health and well-being. In addition to articles about keeping tabs on your gut health, what to do when your child comes home from school with head lice and maintaining work-life balance, Health — which is published in both English and Arabic — includes such features as "Hospital of the Month" and a guide on staying healthy while fasting during Ramadan
Modern Wellness (South Africa)
Founded in 2021, South Africa's Modern Wellness promises to deliver "trends, solutions and information that will look towards a happier, healthier, and more holistic you". It's essentially a health magazine for the TikTok generation, and we mean that in the best way possible.
Recent issues have included a cover feature on wellness tourism, a multi-page spread showing readers how to make salads that have gone viral on (you guessed it) TikTok, and an explainer on genes and how they can affect one's level of fitness.
Truly embodying the spirit of Health Literacy Month, Prevention specializes in factually accurate and up-to-date content written in jargon-free plain language, that "provides real-life context around complex information, and truly helps readers make important decisions about their health".
If Modern Wellness (see above) courts a Gen Z readership, Prevention skews a little older, as evidenced by recent articles on making menopause easier, busting midlife myths and increasing your flexibility "at any age".
The covers of Prevention's Australian edition often features celebs such as Sylvia Jeffreys, Sonia Kruger, Poh Ling Yeow and other women you've likely never heard of if you're not from Down Under.
Santé Magazine (France)
With its freshly scrubbed, smiling cover models and monthly quizzes, it would be easy to mistake the French-language Santé Magazine for something far lightweight than it actually is.
Consider, for example, the range of articles featured in just the past few issues, including an article on how to understand the results of various medical tests, a piece on the latest advances in Alzheimer's research, and a list of six compelling reasons why your kids should get the HPV vaccine.
Don’t read French? No worries. With PressReader, you can instantly translate Santé Magazine into a wide range of other languages, including English, French, Hungarian, Croatian, Korean and Vietnamese.