Health literacy is a concept that not only focuses on the families' ability to absorb health communication, but also on the social determinants of health (Nutbeam, Harris & Wise 2010). Health literacy focuses on factors that may contribute to inequality in health but also creates understanding of the underlying factors and constituents which can contribute to strengthening and developing the families health literacy.
It is important to make sure that information is understood by all family members. We all as human beings understand information in different ways. Some people might have problems with reading or understanding texts or words and need personalized information and education. It is worthwhile to reflect on some of those issues. WHO define health literacy as the cognitive and social skills which determine the motivation and ability of individuals to gain access to understand and use information in ways which promote and maintain good health. Thus health literacy means more than being able to read pamphlets and successfully make appointments with health care providers. If we support people's access to health information and improve their capacity to use it effectively, health literacy is important to empowerment. Low health literacy may interfere with a person's abilities to effectively interpret health information or to meaningfully engage in mental health interventions which may result in poor self-care management, increased disability and morbidity (Krishan, von Esenwein & Druss 2012). A high level of health literacy can be seen as a right and a matter of justice and is essential to achieving and maintaining physical and mental wellbeing.
The need for information and knowledge is very high in the family, especially if they are facing mental health problems for the first time. These needs may differ from the needs perceived by mental health professionals (Sung et al., 2004). With psychoeducation, the aim is to provide information to help family members to understand mental health problems and their impact on everyday life of the service user and other the family members. In addition, information about what services are available and how these can be accessed should be provided to family members (Tweedal et al., 2004; Sin et al., 2007).
When working with families, term psychoeducation could be changed to family education. There are studies showing the benefits of family education from different viewpoints (Xia et al 2011; Magliano 2005; Navidian et al 2012; Zhao et al 2015). But there is also still a lot to do in the area of psychoeducation. Different kinds of of psychoeducation can be used, for example family groups might be highly beneficial as they enable also peer-support (Xia et al 2011; Navidian et al 2012). Different materials can also be used, like leaflets or videos and today there are also many websites, web-based programs or mobile applications available.
It is important to consider the age of the family members and other factors like cultural differences, which you might need to take into account in family education (Shin 2004). Family education also includes children and should be seen as a promotive action supporting everyones mental health. To work with children where there is a family member who has mental health problems, there are different programs available.
In our meeting with the Smith family, we would like to briefly describe that family education could be seen as sharing knowledge in the mutual interaction. It is not about giving or getting information, but about sharing the knowledge (Kilkku et al 2003). The Smith family have knowledge on their everyday life and the reality of how Lily's tiredness affects everyone. The practitioner working with them, has knowledge about these kind of situations because of her education and experiences. All these different kinds of knowledge are shared for common good in the meeting.
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