Purpose – The aim of this paper is to define health literacy as a learning outcome in schools, and to describe the learning conditions that are relevant for targeting health literacy. Design/methodology/approach – The paper draws on theoretical and empirical educational literature, and also the experiences of the authors. Findings – Health literacy is defined as consisting of five core components: theoretical knowledge, practical knowledge, critical thinking, self-awareness, and citizenship. The first three components are rather similar to the commonly-accepted health literacy concept, but the definition given in this paper expands the concept via two additional – but essential – components. It is emphasized that when one is aiming to develop students’ internal capacity to construct their own meanings regarding health topics, these two additional components are called for. The paper argues that one of the main aims of health teaching in schools should be to foster students’ ability to define their own beliefs, identity and social relations. Moreover, if it is desired that students should become responsible citizens, acting in an ethically responsible way, competencies such as ethical reflection skills should be developed in schools. The paper also highlights the fact that the development of certain health literacy components calls for particular kinds of learning conditions.
Health Education, 112 (2), pp. 133-152
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