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The Nexus Between Health Literacy and Empowerment


  • Kristine Crondahl
  • Leena Eklund Karlsson


The aim of this article was to explore what is known about the assumed connection between health literacy and empowerment and how this connection is portrayed in the scientific literature. If empowerment is an outcome of health literacy, what are the mechanisms behind this process? A literature search conducted in 2013 yielded 216 hits, of which five met the inclusion criteria, and thus were read in depth and analyzed through a narrative-review approach. The findings indicate that health literacy might be regarded as a tool for empowerment but does not automatically lead to empowerment. Health literacy might be increased by health education. Crucial for empowerment is to achieve the critical level of health literacy including an ability to question and reflect on the prevailing power relations and societal conditions; increased senses of power, self-esteem, and self-efficacy; and an ability to utilize these resources to engage in social and political action for change. This article suggests that for health literacy to be critical to empowerment, there must be a focus on social health determinants and individuals’ subjective perceptions of health and health needs. The article proposes functional and interactive health literacy as a form of capacity building for health and empowerment and critical health literacy as a way to describe empowerment. This scoping review indicates a research gap and a need for future research examining the relationship between health literacy and empowerment.

Suggested Citation

  • Kristine Crondahl & Leena Eklund Karlsson, 2016. "The Nexus Between Health Literacy and Empowerment," SAGE Open, , vol. 6(2), pages 21582440166, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:sagope:v:6:y:2016:i:2:p:2158244016646410
    DOI: 10.1177/2158244016646410

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Kristine Crondahl & Leena Eklund Karlsson, 2015. "Roma Empowerment and Social Inclusion Through Work-Integrated Learning," SAGE Open, , vol. 5(1), pages 21582440155, February.
    2. Nutbeam, Don, 2008. "The evolving concept of health literacy," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 67(12), pages 2072-2078, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Gary Holden & Kathleen Barker & Sofie Kuppens & Gary Rosenberg, 2017. "A Social Work Education Outcome Measure: The Evaluation Self-Efficacy Scale–II," SAGE Open, , vol. 7(3), pages 21582440177, August.

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