Health literacy is a concept that has become increasingly important in the healthcare field in respect to promoting health care services in the contemporary society. Health literacy refers to the ability of individuals gather, process, understands and used health information in making consummate health decisions (Matwijiw 2012). According to Bowers, Howard and Bywood, 2011, health literacy goes beyond the evaluation of an individual. Health care providers are the critical evaluators on how good is a population literate health wise. According to Poole, 2014, 60% of Australian population scores poorly in basic health literacy scale. This percentage seems to decline with age, associated with poor technology usage among the elderly population. Importance of health literacy among the elderly group cannot be overemphasized. The elderly population becomes vulnerable to chronic conditions related to lifestyle and body changes. Therefore, increasing their literacy level will ensure that risk of implications associated with chronic conditions such as heart diseases has been reduced.
Health literacy is categorized into three levels, which are cumulative in scale. The first and the most basic level is the functional health literacy. This level indicates the level at which individuals can read and write comprehensible health information. This level was traditionally used to with the purpose of increasing patients’ compliance with treatment regimes. The second category, interactive health literacy, involves a higher ability than in the first category. This level gauges the ability of an individual to execute cognitive and social skills while engaging in discussions or making decisions regarding health promotion or maintenance. The third level, critical health literacy, involves highly mature and competencies in understanding health information with the main goal of promoting community and social perspective on health. Individuals who qualify to poses sound critical health literacy are involved public disclosures about health on key factors influencing health. The three levels can be represented as a circle with the functional level, forming the core of the circle. According to Smith and McCaffery, 2010, such a representaion indicates how health literacy moves from the individual level to encroach and influence the society.
As an individual matures into the health literacy levels, so does the risks of acquiring preventable diseases reduces. In addition, the individual will be well prepared to deal with chronic conditions reducing complications. Health professionals find it easier to dispense their health care duties to populations that have high levels of health literacy. The ease is associated will high degree of comprehending instruction, confidence in making clarification, increased compliances, and understanding the risks involved. Australian population has a large proportion of the elderly population. As one advanced in age, so does the health conditions becomes pronounced. With life expectancy being high in Australia, most there is no doubt that health literacy is vital in this group. Conditions such as heart problems, hypertension, stroke, and arthritis become common among the elderly in the population (Matwijiw 2012). In addition, immunity deteriorates with advanced age, making it possible for opportunistic conditions to become common among the elderly. Therefore, increasing health literacy among individuals falling in the elderly group will be critical in promoting health in Australia (Smith & McCaffery 2010).
Technology is a vital tool in promoting health literacy in the contemporary society. Many people are using the Internet to keep abreast with the current improvement in the field of health among other areas. The social media platform has become one of the most used communication platforms where information is shared at a fast rate, covering a wide geographical region. According to Eichler, Wieser, and Brugger, 2009, people are using technology to improve their health awareness. Most of the youth search information regarding their symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and health care institutions offering the required health interventions. This reduces the cost of commuting from point to the other ensuring availability of services in different health care services. In addition, people go to the hospitals with a potential diagnosis and use doctor to confirm their perceptions or improve their understanding of theiir conditions. Therefore, technology has boosted health literacy in Australia among other world.
Apparently, the elderly population has been shown to lag behind in terms of technology usage (Protheroe, Nutbeam & Rowlands 2009). Low usage of the Internet and social media platforms is associated with such platforms being associated with complicated technology, poor technological know-how, responsibilities in elderly life, failing eye sites, and ignorance among others (Protheroe, Nutbeam & Rowlands 2009). Such factors inhibit the possibility of the elderly group to improve their health literacy, further increasing possibility of exacerbating the risk of complications from prevalence conditions associated with advanced age. Therefore, considerable effort needs to be made with the aim of improving the perception of social media and internet impact of health literacy. However, the information found on the Internet has to be treated with caution. Individuals have to understand approaches through which they can evaluate validity, reliability and authenticity of information. Some information may be incorrect, resulting in acquiring wrong health information that may lead to misdiagnosis and mismanagement.
How Can We Help?
One of the main areas that require a high degree of health literacy is heart disease. According to Peerson, 2010, heart diseases form the largest group of conditions affecting the elderly population in Australia. Targeting awareness and improvement of health literacy in this condition will result in a reduction in mortalities resulting from heart disease among the elderly. Heart conditions are mainly caused by atherosclerosis and atherosclerosis; two conditions that complicate with age. Atherosclerosis refers to thinning of blood vessels, mostly arteries, resulting from deposition of lipid along the inner lining of the vessels. One the other hand, Arthrosclerosis refers to the loss of elasticity of blood vessels resulting from aging and scarring. These two conditions are coincidentally common with advanced age; hence the risk of suffering heart diseases among the elderly becomes higher than that of the young generation. Having the right information regarding heart diseases is vital among the elderly.