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Open Access Highly Accessed Correspondence

Health literacy: setting an international collaborative research agenda

Joanne Protheroe1*, Lorraine S Wallace2, Gillian Rowlands3 and Jennifer E DeVoe4

Author Affiliations

1 NPCRDC, University of Manchester, 5th floor Williamson Building, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL, UK

2 University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine, Department of Family Medicine, 1924 Alcoa Hwy, U-67, Knoxville, TN 37920, USA

3 Institute of Primary Care and Public Health, Department of Health GP Health Literacy Champion, Institute of Primary Care and Public Health, Faculty of Health and Social Care, London South Bank University, 103 Borough Road, London SE1 0AA, UK

4 Department of Family Medicine, Oregon Health and Science University, 3181 Sam Jackson Park Rd, FM, Portland, OR 97239, USA

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BMC Family Practice 2009, 10:51  doi:10.1186/1471-2296-10-51

Published: 10 July 2009

Abstract

Background

Health literacy is an increasingly important topic in both the policy and research agendas of many countries. During the recent 36th Annual Meeting of the North American Primary Care Research Group, the authors led an audio-taped 3-hour forum, "Studying Health Literacy: Developing an International Collaboration," where the current state of health literacy (HL) in the United States (US) and United Kingdom (UK) was presented and attendees were encouraged to debate a future research agenda.

Discussion of Forum Themes

The debate centred around three distinct themes, including: (1) refining HL definitions and conceptual models, (2) HL measurement and assessment tools, and (3) developing a collaborative international research agenda. The attendees agreed that future research should be theoretically grounded and conceptual models employed in studies should be explicit to allow for international comparisons to be drawn.

Summary and Authors Reflections

The importance of HL research and its possible contribution to health disparities is becoming increasingly recognised internationally. International collaborations and comparative studies could illuminate some of the possible determinants of disparities, and also possibly provide a vehicle to examine other research questions of interest.