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Health Literacy and Health Education: Research and Practical Applications

Kerry J. Redican

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Helen Osbourne states in her book, Health Literacy from A to Z, that health literacy is about communicating health information in ways others can understand. It has three central components: communication skills of the person expressing a message; learning needs of each person. This statement underscores The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s statement that health literacy is important in both personal and organizational contexts and accomplished through: (1) emphasizing people’s ability to use health information rather than just understand it; (2) focusing on the ability to make “well-informed” decisions rather than “appropriate” ones; (3) incorporating a public health perspective; and (4) acknowledge that organizations have a responsibility to address health literacy. These statements provide a good context for examining the relationship between health literacy and health education.

Health Literacy continues to be an important component of health education regardless of the practice setting. Most, if not all of us in health education use and/or operationalize health literacy concepts in our work. Given all the recent attention on the importance of health literacy, the Editorial Board of the American Journal of Health Education (AJHE) felt that it would be helpful to the profession to dedicate a special issue to Health Literacy and Health Education. In Spring, an invitation to submit manuscripts for the special AJHE issue on Health Literacy and Health Education: Research and Practical Applications was widely distributed.

Many excellent articles were submitted and accepted. The majority of the articles are included in this issue but because of space limitations a few of the articles will appear in a future AJHE issue. This special issue of the American Journal of Health Education, Health Literacy and Health Education: Research and Practical Applications contains three feature articles, five research articles and two commentaries.

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