Reprinted from the "Health Literacy" issue of Visions Journal, 2013, 8 (2), p. 4
Welcome to this issue on health literacy! First, it might be useful to take a moment to clarify who I am. Regular readers will notice that I am not Sarah Hamid-Balma who skillfully introduces and weaves together each issue of Visions in her role as ongoing Editor. And I am not the Guest Editor for this issue. We are lucky to have Dr. Irving Rootman fulfill that role, providing a compelling analysis of BC’s leadership in the area of mental health literacy. For this issue, I am more of a “visiting editor,” bringing this issue to publication after we started work on it during Sarah’s recent maternity leave. I am really pleased to be able to share such a strong collection of articles covering a breadth of ideas associated with health literacy. Let me take a few moments to catch you about what we have in store for you in this issue.
When I first came across the words “health literacy” earlier in my career, the term felt both unfamiliar, and familiar, all at the same time. I remember being able to grasp the concept of literacy, but I wondered about the specifics of literacy linked to health. At first, I developed a fairly basic understanding of health literacy, thinking it meant an individual’s ability to understand health information. As I have spent more time in the field of mental health, and of course during my experiences editing this issue, I have come to develop a more comprehensive understanding of what is meant by health literacy. In terms of my own relationship with health literacy, I can now see it in terms of being able to find information about health, figuring out if that information is of good quality, and communicating what I understand of that information. Of course, understanding the information I’ve found is still a key part. In many ways, I’ve increased my literacy of health literacy!
Each of the contributors in this issue do a wonderful job of bringing greater understanding to what is meant by health literacy. In keeping with the long-standing tradition in Visions, a number of perspectives converge in this issue, helping along a richer, thicker, and more vivid understanding of the topic. Researchers, family members, service providers, a young person, and policymakers all weigh in on the issue. I trust that you will walk away with some new learning about how health literacy supports overall health.