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Library and Information Science Paper (ID LIS059117)

Health Literacy Research and the Contributionof Library and Information Science: To Aspects of Consumer Health Information Services
No.59, p.117-146
Issue date

Purpose: “Health literacy” is the ability to obtain and use information in order to maintain one’s health and to recover from disease. Health information providers should consider health literacy an integral part of health communication. Since “Health Literacy” was one of the objectives of Healthy People 2010 in the year 2000, research in the field of health literacy has flourished in the U.S.

This paper attempts to emphasize both the necessity of health literacy research and the outline contribution of library and information science to health literacy in Japan through a literature review of the expansion of health literacy research in the U.S. and its introduction to Japan.

Results: There were three turning points in health literacy research in the U.S.: a readability study for documents started in the 1970s; a measurement study of individual health literacy created and implemented in the 1990s; and a health outcome study after the year 2000. These previous studies indicate that the methods and accomplishments of health literacy research are recognized primarily based on the following health literacy research models: basic literacy and knowledge; narrowly-defined health literacy; and health outcomes. The backgrounds of the health literacy researchers vary, but do include library and information science. The results of the research have been reflected in the expansion of consumer health information services. In Japan, very little health literacy research has been conducted, although a portion of the definition of health literacy has been introduced to scholars in some health-related fields.

Researchers’ interest in the relationship between health information and the general public including patients has grown recently. Health literacy should be recognized as one of the important research agendas in human information interaction. In addition to health sciences and education, library and information science should contribute to health literacy research in Japan.

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