Health Literacy is crucial to a lot of the challenges the health sector is facing now especially concerning resistance to many drugs (e.g. antibiotics, anti-malarials etc) and escalating renal and hepatic damages from unsafe self-medication. Instead of consulting health care providers (often because of cost implications), a very high proportion of people in low and middle income countries who now have access to the internet simply find out information about "signs and symptoms" and start using drugs that they purchase from patent medicine store attendants.
Understanding information needs
Background: Symptomatic cervical cancer patients in low- and middle-income countries usually present with late stage disease and have poor survival. We explored the views of cervical cancer patients on their symptom appraisal and interpretations, and their help-seeking including lay consultations.
'Cancer of the cervix is the second most common cancer in women worldwide, and in some developing countries it is the leading cause of cancer death. Globally each year, about half a million women develop cervical cancer, [of whom] 200 000 new cases of cervical cancer in Member States of the World Health Organization (WHO) South-East Asia Region... The vast majority of cases and deaths from cervical cancer are unnecessary, because efficacious and potentially effective modalities exist for its prevention and management.'
Last week, I have organized a health information workshop with some clinical laboratory technicians, they idenfied lack of open access to atlas about parasites for training new technicians and as reference. And I also found that a 2014 FAO report related with food parasites, FAO mentioned "Despite their huge social costs and global impacts, information is generally lacking regarding just where these parasites come from, how they live in the human body, and - most importantly - how they make us sick.".
The focus of current news stories is on the development of new drugs that *might* reduce mortality in Ebola. (One of these, ZMapp, has recently been abandoned amid rumours that it costs $100,000 for a course of treatment.) We should not forget that most deaths could be avoided through *existing* supportive measures, in particular fluid replacement. It is no accident that death rates from those treated in West Africa were as high as 80%, while those treated in the USA and other high-income countries have been close to zero.
I want to draw your attention to the BMJ rapid response below written by four friends of mine from South Africa. They emphasise the importance of capacity building, including crucially the role of evidence based guidelines, in rural clinics in South Africa.
-- Capacity development for integrated care: The fourth dimension in improving healthcare in low-middle income countries
Dear all, I have found a very interesting campaign (from 2003 to 2009) that aimed at increasing people's involvement in decisions about their use of medicines, called Ask About Medicines. It seems that the website is not available anymore, but the resources and materials can be found at the Patient Information Forum: http://www.pifonline.org.uk/topics-index/producing/targeting-your-audience/ask-about-medicines/