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Health Promot Int. 2013 Mar 11. [Epub ahead of print]

Health literacy lost in translations? Introducing the European Health Literacy Glossary.

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  • 1Department of International Health/CAPHRI, Maastricht University, PO Box 616, 6200MD Maastricht, The Netherlands.


Health literacy has gained momentum in the Western world, yet in Europe the concept of health literacy is only marginally integrated in research, policy and practice. The present paper presents how translation may act as an influential factor with regard to integration of the health literacy notion in Europe. This study has compared five data sources that provide translations of health literacy: The European Union's Health Strategy; the translations applied in the European Health Literacy Project; national health expert opinions and Google Translate. The comparison integrated Peter Fawcett's translation techniques as a framework for analysis. The results showed a total of 28 translations: 22 from the European Union Health Strategy; 6 from the HLS-EU project; 17 from experts; 25 from Google Translate. Some countries are consistent in translations of health literacy, other countries diverge, the reasons being that health literacy is not yet mainstreamed and the translations are primarily driven by a latent polarized discourse of the concept of literacy. The study showed that translations in general reveals enriched insights in the cohesion of health literacy as one notion and provides the European Health Literacy Glossary that can inform health professionals, academia and decision-makers to further advance health literacy across Europe.

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