Health literacy for current and imagined lives

Year: 2012

Author: Renwick, Kerry

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


The focus of most of the literature about health literacy is on adults with minimal consideration of adolescents and children. The value in considering health literacy for children and adolescents is not about enabling medicalised consumerism rather developing levels of literacy that facilitate the individual's ability to follow designated regimes but also considering if the regime makes sense under varied socioeconomic and political contexts around current and unforseen or yet to be experienced health status.

Green and Bigum (1993) have identified how classrooms are constituted by different experiences of technology between students and teachers that is both substantial and potentially 'alien'. Health promotion and education faces similar challenges in that differences in experienced health arises out of teachers and students being at different stages of the lifespan as well as how health determinants have impacted in similar and different ways.

This paper will explore how health literacy is contextualised by both level of health promotion and the lived experience of the individual. It draws on a perspective of critical health literacy that aims to enable students, teachers and others in the school community to be able to not only deal with contemporary situations, but to also see possibilities for health literacy in future contexts. Of specific consideration is how health literacy within primary health promotion and thus what is predominately offered in schools as informed by Green's (1988) writings about literacy as situated social practice, that is operational, cultural and critical.

Green, B. 1988, Subject-specific literacy and school learning: A focus on writing. Australian Journal of Education, Vol. 32, No. 2
Green, B. and Bigum, C. 1993, 'Aliens in the Classroom', Australian Journal of Education, vol. 37, no. 2, pp. 119 - 41