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Health literacy around the world’ launches ahead of International Self-Care Day 2021

Health literacy has never been more important following the outbreak of COVID-19. While lockdown restrictions were at their highest, self-care became an important line of defence against the pandemic as the world was encouraged to stay home, manage minor ailments themselves to help relieve pressure on healthcare systems, and adopt superior hygiene to help protect themselves and their loved ones and help curb the spread of the disease.

What is health literacy?

Health literacy is the ability to access, understand, and act on information to improve one’s health.

Health literacy around the world: policy approaches to wellbeing through knowledge and empowerment

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) has published a new report on the global state of health literacy and its policy drivers. ‘Health literacy around the world: policy approaches to wellbeing through knowledge and empowerment’ is an independent research analysis of health literacy that looks at how health literacy can be boosted in national policy and in the education, healthcare and digital sectors.

Sponsored by Reckitt, the report is being launched this week ahead of International Self-Care Day (Saturday 24th July).

Key highlights of the report

The report provides a comprehensive overview of seven countries to show different levels of accomplishment in health literacy.

Some of the key highlights from the report, include:

  • Addressing and improving health literacy requires action from individuals and health organisations and wider government, as well as industry and academic institutions - we all have a part to play
  • Health literacy improves lives, reduces health inequalities, boosts the health of future generations, allows for more patient-centric care and can even reduce healthcare costs
  • Health literacy can create ‘herd immunity’ against misinformation and disinformation – a major issue highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Barriers to health literacy can include socioeconomic status, access to education, language and disability barriers

Across the healthcare, education and digital sectors, the report found that...

  • Healthcare professionals (HCPs) and pharmacists are key in supporting the improvement of health literacy and can play a major role in enabling self-care
  • Schools and the broader education system provide an ideal environment to introduce health literacy programmes, but adult education can often be overlooked and more should be done to target vulnerable adult populations
  • Digital technology can bring both opportunities and challenges – emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and wearable tech are improving engagement in health literacy and enabling self-care. With technology comes challenges relating to quantity and quality of information

How are we supporting health literacy and self-care around the world at Reckitt?

At Reckitt, we exist to protect, heal and nurture in the relentless pursuit of a cleaner, healthier world. But we know we can’t do it alone.

Through transformative global partnerships, meaningful initiatives and of course the work of our purpose-driven brands, we’re empowering consumers through knowledge and solutions to enable them to self-care. We’re partnering with, and equipping HCPs and pharmacists, with tools and knowledge to play their part in promoting self-care, and we are engaging with regulators and policy makers to create pro-self-care environments.

Hand washing is recognised as the simplest, most important, and least expensive means of reducing the prevalence of healthcare-associated illnesses and the spread of antimicrobial resistance.

Data from UNICEF highlighted alarming hygiene practices across India. It was reported that each year, more than three million children in India under the age of five-years-old die from diarrhoeal diseases.

After recognising these figures, Dettol Banega Swasth India launched the Dettol School Hygiene Education Programme, focusing on key learning goals taught in children’s foundation years, which includes knowledge of self-care and health and bodily awareness.

The main idea behind the programme is to engrain healthy hygiene practices from an early age, so children will not only gain the skills to keep themselves safe and healthy, but they can also take the lessons they have learnt home with them and share their wisdom. The programme curriculum has also been adapted to be taught at religious institutions.

The programme has reached 20 million children across India. The results of the programme have been significant in not only reducing cases of diarrhea among children by 14.2 per cent, but it has also boosted school attendance by 17 per cent.

In partnership with the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP), we are currently sponsoring a programme of digital educational events for pharmacists across the world. Under of the theme of “Shaping the future of self-care through pharmacy”, the events look to support pharmacists in their gatekeeper role as the most accessible and free source of healthcare advice for patients covering a wide range of topics including health literacy and appropriate management in medicine choice.

The programme focuses on how community pharmacies can accelerate universal health coverage by enabling and promoting self-care to all.

So far, there have been four live online webinars reaching more than 5,000 attendees from more than 60 countries with good levels of engagement from the attendees through their questions to the panelists.

In partnership with social change charity Good Things Foundation, our eCommerce digital division, eRB spearheaded an exciting, digital-focused project in September 2020 that partnered with 15 community organisations across England.

The projected aimed to support 1,500 people and provide them with essential digital skills to help improve their digital health literacy. Good Things Foundation previously worked with the National Health Service (NHS), and developed a new model that focused on improving digital health literacy and providing access to health information through digital inclusion support in communities.

15 digital hubs were launched in response to the covid-19 pandemic. This unique set of circumstances meant digital inclusion became integral to the health and wellbeing of the country.

The digital hubs provided a safe and friendly space where support could be provided in-line with government guidance on social distancing and remotely. So far, over 650 people have been supported through the project.

  • 87% of people helped feel more confident about finding information to do with health and wellbeing online
  • 90% of people helped feel more confident using health services online, and
  • 85% of people helped feel more informed about their health
  • The digital health hubs have provided support to people who can face higher barriers to accessing health services — such as people from minority ethnic backgrounds, people on lower incomes, people with disabilities and older people.

The scheme’s success has proved that digital inclusion can improve health and wellbeing significantly by enabling people to take control of their health and care, and access trusted information and services.

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“We’ve all taken new, extraordinary steps to protect the health of our families, communities and ourselves over the past year. We’re having conversations about our physical and mental health in places we’ve not had these discussions before, which is a positive outcome of the pandemic."

Kris Licht President, Health

“We’re also using all the tools we have available to practice self-care, which supports our stretched healthcare systems and empowers people to look after their loved ones. Increasing our understanding of how to use the resources available in order to prioritise self-care is a critical part of developing self-care capabilities, so this report from the EIU on health literacy couldn’t be better timed.”

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“Governments need to understand that improving health literacy means healthier people and better healthcare systems. Around the world there are examples of systems making changes to ensure that healthcare is easier to understand and navigate. Promoting health literacy can boost the health of future generations and allow health professionals and their organisations to better engage with people in a patient-centric way.”

Elizabeth Sukkar Lead on EIU health literacy report, and Managing Editor at the Economist Intelligence Unit
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“Health Literacy is a critical enabler of self-care as it empowers people and societies to improve their health. If self-care does not go hand in hand with health education and literacy there is the potential for incorrect self-diagnosis and missed opportunities to take the right actions at the right time, which can have serious consequences. This is an important factor for all stakeholders to understand."

Judy Stenmark Director General, at Global Self-Care Federation

“Covid has shone a spotlight on the value of self-care and consequently the importance of a health literate global society – working together now will lead to improved consumer health outcomes and more resilient health systems.”

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