Health literacy saves lives! A healthy planet leads to healthy people

O World Health Day, April 7, was chosen in 1948 by the World Health Organization (WHO) because, on that date, the first assembly of this organization was held. The celebrations began in 1950 and every year a theme is chosen, developing activities that lead to the promotion of the health of the populations. The motto for 2022 is ‘our planet, our health’, loosely translated as ‘our planet, our health’, directly relating environmental issues to our health and well-being. The climate emergency has been repeatedly recalled by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, as he did recently, at the end of 2021, at the Climate Conference on Climate Change – COP26. In addition to the obvious implications that climate has on our health, in recent years several questions have been raised about the full impact that environmental changes have on human health.

For the success of this motto, and to respond to the challenges that arise, it is essential to continue to develop another fundamental vector, health literacy. In addition to information, it comprises cognitive and social skills and the ability of individuals to gain access to understand and use information in ways that promote and maintain good health (WHO, 1998).

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According to data from the General Directorate of Health, published on its website in November 2021, Portugal is among the countries with the best level of health literacy, where 65% of the population will have a sufficient level. However, it still seems to us necessary to maintain a continuous work of doctors in the promotion of literacy, given the proliferation of access to information dissemination platforms and the emergence of tudologists, making it imperative that they are the most qualified professionals to mediate this transmission of information, avoiding myths, misinformation and taking advantage of beliefs for economic gain. The bet of modern medicine, making people more educated, will lead to more demanding people and better able to make the best decisions regarding themselves, their habits and the environment, in addition to active participation in decision-making on concrete issues of health and disease (screenings, auxiliary tests and therapeutic, curative and palliative options).

Dr. Mafalda Santos© DR

At almost the same age as the WHO, the Portuguese Society of Internal Medicine (SPMI), founded in 1951, has been opening up to civil society. Internists have long left the paradigm of obtaining a cure, for the understanding of the person in a holistic way, knowing that they must integrate all their dimensions in the work process and in the objectives to be achieved. An example of this is a text recently published by Luís Campos in the SPMI scientific journal, the ‘Commitment of Portuguese Internists’ (Campos, L. RPMI 2022), in 35 points. On this day, which we are commemorating today, I would emphasize points 4, 5 and 7, which focus on disease prevention, environmental protection and the fight against climate change, as crucial to avoid the deterioration of health and deaths, and literacy in health.

SPMI started to organize the Festa da Saúde, with the first edition in 2017 in Lisbon, in 2018 in Porto and in 2019 in Viseu, with the next edition scheduled for Aveiro, on the 2nd and 3rd of July this year, after two postponements due to the pandemic. It is a format in which there is an interaction with the population, making known the various health promotion programs, clarifying doubts and carrying out some screenings, at the same time that sports and cultural activities are promoted, or the preparation of healthy meals while talking. on topics that focus on promoting a better environment and better health.

It is this combination of improving the population’s literacy with better attitudes towards themselves and the surroundings, which is expected to lead to the celebration of a better planet, healthier and happier people, who will certainly take care of themselves and their home, our planet. .

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