Health Literacy Analysis

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Health literacy constitutes a series of varied skills and understandings that enable an individual to effectively function within a variety of health contexts, and is especially important to education as it imbues students with the understandings and skillsets required to make informed evaluations and decisions about their health. This is especially important given that good health is a well-known attribute of a successful learner. Ideally, a health literacy program would begin in the early-years to build a foundational understanding of health-related literacies, before advancing into more student-led interactive and critical literacy practice. Interactive and critical literacies are especially important in the latter years of
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Interactive literacy could be developed by having students undertake more student-led individual or group research of health-related information. Finally, critical health literacy is the ability to analyse health information to develop critically-informed evaluations and decisions regarding health. It is especially important for primary students to become well-practiced in critically evaluating the credibility of health information found on the internet and in the media; two sources of information they will increasingly rely on as they enter adolescence (Begoray & Banister, 2015; Manganello, 2008). There are a plethora of opportunities, either in dedicated health classes or cross-curricularly, to develop critical health literacies. This could be through teacher-led activities such as analysing advertisements for gender or lifestyle messages, discussions of literature featuring prominent health issues such as depression, before moving to more student-led activities such as individual or group inquiries to debate the validity of certain health claims. Students’ capability to think independently, and to make critically-informed health choices, will be nurtured through using developmentally appropriate questions and materials to guide inquiries of health-related fields (Bergoray and Banister, 2015 p. …show more content…
Beginning health literacy in the early years is a strategy corroborated by Winkelman, Caldwell, Bertram and Davis (2016), who argue that health literacy has the greatest impact if it is imparted prior to adult-onset chronic diseases, ‘ideally while children and adolescents are developing their health behaviors (...)’ (p. 2). Beginning early is important given that the latter years of primary school are often marked by the onset of puberty and therefore adolescence in students. The IOM’s report overall highlights the need for schools to take a central role in improving health literacy for these adolescent students, as they will likely begin to develop greater health autonomy at this time. Potential health-risk behaviours often begin to emerge at this critical phase of life, and these adverse behaviours can persist through to adulthood if left unchecked (Viner et al 2012; Manganello 2008). An ideal health literacy program, then, is one which begins in the early years to build a foundation of functional health literacy. As students become more capable in navigating health-related resources, focus can shift to developing the interactive and critical literacies essential to empowering students to make healthy choices for themselves

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