20: Health literacy interventions for children or adolescents: An overview and insights into practical applications

Three of the most recently published academic literature reviews focusing on health literacy among children and adolescents agree that we don’t know enough about health literacy among children and adolescents (Perry, 2014; Okan et al, 2015, 2018; Bro?der et al, 2017). While the appeal of ‘more research is needed’ is overly common among academic publications, in this case, it seems entirely justified.

Given the dearth of formal research on health literacy in youth and adolescents, in this chapter we first identify effective strategies for youth and adolescents in the context of a single health issue, overweight and obesity. Then, we focus on findings that are compatible with the evidence-based best practices and conceptual models of health literacy. Our overarching goal is to expand the knowledge base about testable approaches that align with health literacy and have evidence of effectiveness and feasibility among youth and adolescents.

In 2012 we completed a literature review on childhood obesity interventions. Many of the best practices that review identified are aligned with the best practices of health literacy, whether that was explicit or not in the original article. Articles in that review included 14 randomised or cohort interventions, 5 cross-sectional and 1 longitudinal assessment, along with 12 literature reviews. Reviewer reliability was evaluated on 10 per cent of the total articles, with a 99 per cent reliability rate.

Based largely on that review, we offer a brief discussion of programme design and evaluation considerations relevant to overweight and obese youth and adolescents. Thus, this chapter does not focus on summarising and reporting universal truths about the role and structure of health literacy in children and adolescents.

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