07 Patient Empowerment

How might we improve the communication with people who do not read well?


Quite a few danes, 10-15%, are functional analphabets, varying from being able to read easy texts to not being able to read subtitles on TV. These persons thus have a very hard time working with the health personnel or fully being able to fully take care of themselves.

Case description:

Health services offers patients ┬ádiagnostic evaluation and treatment for their disease, and part of the overall treatment is also making the patient strong enough to self-manage the disease. We talk about empowerment, so we support the patients so they themselves can act – if possible.

In order to work with patients and families about this support, it requires that the patient has the the prerequisites for this.

The concept of health literacy also includes the ability to understand and apply knowledge of health, and this ability obviously varies from person to person, but also the individual over time. A person can in a stable period of illness have the energy to both understand and translate this knowledge, while in other more stressful periods, not have the energy for this.

Health care has a long tradition of predominantly to make use of written and oral communication, and a large part are informative in nature (pamphlets, etc.) which often later followed by an oral information. Often this written information is very detailed and written in a language that bears the mark of it being written by health professionals themselves – that is, in a language which they understand.

We know that 10-15% of the Danish population are functionally illiterate, and it varies from inability to be able to read simple texts and articles in newspapers and magazines to difficulty with keeping up with the subtitles on a TV broadcast. These people are in a very poor position regarding reading and understanding in order to be able to engage in cooperation with the health professional or take care of their own situation.

In addition, people naturally have different preferences for learning, for example, some learn best by listening, and others by seeing and again others prefer to have “it” in their hands. Healthcare focuses on written information, and in this way a lot of people’s preferences are not served well.

Case files

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