Media Health Literacy, eHealth Literacy, and the Role of the Social Environment in Context

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018 Aug 3;15(8):1643. doi: 10.3390/ijerph15081643.


Health literacy describes skills and competencies that enable people to gain access to, understand and apply health information to positively influence their own health and the health of those in their social environments. In an increasingly media saturated and digitized world, these skill sets are necessary for accessing and navigating sources of health information and tools, such as television, the Internet, and mobile apps. The concepts of Media Health Literacy (MHL) and eHealth Literacy (eHL) describe the specific competencies such tasks require. This article introduces the two concepts, and then reviews findings on the associations of MHL and eHL with several contextual variables in the social environment such as socio-demographics, social support, and system complexity, as a structural variable. As eHL and MHL are crucial for empowering people to actively engage in their own health, there is a growing body of literature reporting on the potential and the effectiveness of intervention initiatives to positively influence these competencies. From an ethical standpoint, equity is emphasized, stressing the importance of accessible media environments for all-including those at risk of exclusion from (digital) media sources. Alignment of micro and macro contextual spheres will ultimately facilitate both non-digital and digital media to effectively support and promote public health.

Keywords: Media Health Literacy; digital health; eHealth Literacy; empowerment; health apps; health literacy; social environment; social support.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomedical Research / ethics
  • Computer Literacy*
  • Health Literacy* / ethics
  • Health Policy
  • Health Services Accessibility / ethics
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Power, Psychological
  • Social Environment*
  • Telemedicine* / ethics