Item Details

The construction of participants, causes and responses in ‘problematic’ health literacy situations

Issue: Vol 8 No. 2 (2011)

Journal: Journal of Applied Linguistics and Professional Practice

Subject Areas: Writing and Composition Linguistics

DOI: 10.1558/japl.v8i2.145


The present study set out to explore primary healthcare practitioners’ views of health literacy. As an initial scoping exercise for a larger project, it sampled a relatively small number of practitioners. It did so by asking them to recount a specific event or situation where language, literacy or numeracy appeared to play a part in a patient’s ability to access and use healthcare services. What emerged in the recounts were representations of patients, literacy-related events and responses that were affective, evaluative and which, in some cases, appeared suggestive of strong attitudes and stereotyping. While a small number appeared to fully understand that health literacy is context and content dependent, other practitioners typically presented a view of health literacy that was narrow in focus and which represented health literacy as primarily drawing on reading skills. These findings suggest that any intervention focusing on health literacy and targeted at primary healthcare practitioners needs to consider the ways in which attitudinal and affective factors may mediate practitioners’ interactions with patients and interactions around healthcare texts; and ways to help practitioners understand the situated and complex nature of health literacy.

Author: Margaret Franken, Judy Hunter

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