Health Literacy as Communicative Action-A Qualitative Study among Persons at Risk in the Context of Predictive and Preventive Medicine

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Mar 5;17(5):1718. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17051718.


Predictive and preventive medicine play an increasingly important role in public debates on health, providing cutting-edge technologies with the potential to measure and predict individual risks of getting ill. This leads to an ever-expanding definitional space between being "healthy" and being "ill", challenging the individual's everyday life, attitudes and perceptions towards the self and the process of health-related decision-making. "How do the condition of 'being at risk' and individual health literacy interrelate?" is the leading question of the current contribution. Drawing on empirical qualitative data, collected by means of narrative interviews with persons at risk in four clinical fields, a bottom-up ethnographic and health sciences perspective on health literacy (with an emphasis on critical health literacy) is employed. The findings will be embedded within theoretical approaches dealing with power relations and communication in healthcare encounters, particularly Habermas' theory of communicative action. The core outcome of our study is a concept for an overarching model of health literacy in the context of health-related risk prediction across indications, based on empirical insights gained through interpretative analysis of the four clinical domains.

Keywords: communicative action; critical health literacy; ethnographic approach; health literacy; health sciences; perceptions of health and disease; persons at risk; qualitative research; shared decision making.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health
  • Communication*
  • Female
  • Health Literacy* / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Preventive Medicine / statistics & numerical data
  • Qualitative Research