Empowering Health: The Vital Connection Between Health Literacy and Patient Empowerme

By- Dr. Preeyati Chopra, Intern

Government Medical College and Rajindra Hospital, Patiala

How many times have you as a healthcare worker witnessed that a patient is unable to understand why something happened to them (medically)? The helplessness they have to deal with when they don’t know how to care for themselves or their loved ones simply because they cannot understand the gravity of the situation? The unawareness of their own role in the disease process and what steps can they take to improve their situation?

In the current scenario, patient-centred care is highlighted but how do we actually tackle the situations mentioned above? Patient empowerment and health literacy are two pillars that uphold the foundation of a progressive and inclusive healthcare system. In an era where information is abundant, understanding the importance of health literacy and its correlation with patient empowerment is crucial for fostering a healthier society.

Health literacy goes beyond the ability to read medical jargon. It encapsulates an individual’s capacity to comprehend, interpret, and apply health-related information. From understanding prescription labels to navigating complex healthcare systems, health literacy is the compass that guides individuals through the intricacies of their well-being.

Patient empowerment on the other hand is defined by WHO as a process in which patients understand their role, and are educated by their health-care provider to think critically and act more autonomously to strengthen self-efficacy and management regarding personal health. (1,2) A well-informed patient is better equipped to actively participate in their healthcare journey. Information access, both in terms of availability and understandability, is the cornerstone of patient empowerment.

You may have seen a pamphlet explaining the consequences of long-term hypertension and what are the simple steps one can take to take care of oneself. This demonstrates one of the numerous ways in which patient education can lead to better overall health in a patient.

Patient empowerment goes beyond patient education but actively includes a shared decision-making practice which involves a dynamic exchange of information and preferences. This dialogue between healthcare professionals and patients ensures that decisions align with the patient’s goals and values, leading to more personalized and effective care.

Patient empowerment has a ripple effect on public health. Empowered individuals are more likely to adhere to preventive measures, manage chronic conditions effectively, and contribute to a healthier community overall. This interconnectedness emphasizes the societal impact of investing in health literacy initiatives.

While we highlight the role of health literacy in patient empowerment, it comes with its fair share of challenges from unequal access to information because of the digital divide and linguistic barriers to insufficient education programs for health education. One of the unescapable problems is limited time with healthcare providers making it challenging to thoroughly address patients’ questions and concerns about their health.

Addressing these challenges requires a multi-faceted approach involving improved communication strategies, cultural competence training for healthcare professionals, and the development of clear and accessible health information materials.

In the symphony of healthcare, health literacy and patient empowerment play harmonious tunes that resonate through the corridors of hospitals, clinics, and communities. As we strive for a patient-centered healthcare system, it is not merely about disseminating information in the form of patient education but fostering a culture where individuals are not just recipients of healthcare but active participants, steering their own journey towards health and well-being.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK144022/
  2. file:///Users/apple/Downloads/PaitentGSKIssue1_Page11_04.05.16.pdf
  3. Figure 1: Aspects of Health Literacy (https://www.accesstohealthcare.org/services-for-organizations/care-coordination-care-management-services/the-access-care-management-model/health-literacy/)
  4. Figure 2: https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/lifes-essential-8/how-to-manage-blood-pressure-fact-sheet

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