xvi Guide to Health Literacy chart that summarizes what she has learned that she can share with her doctor. Samantha’s experience is not unique. She represents a shift in our soci- ety an individual no longer views himself or herself as a passive recipient of medical care but as an active mediator of his or her own health. How- ever, in this era when any individual can post his or her opinions and experiences with a particular health condition online with just a few clicks or publish a memoir, it is vital that people know how to assess the credi- bility of health information. Gone are the days when “publishing” health information required intense vetting. The health information landscape is highly saturated, and people have innumerable sources where they can find information about practically any health topic. The sources (whether print, online, or a person) that an individual consults for health informa- tion are crucial because the accuracy and trustworthiness of the informa- tion can potentially affect his or her overall health. The ability to find, select, assess, and use health information constitutes a type of literacy— health literacy—that everyone must possess. THE DEFINITION AND PHASES OF HEALTH LITERACY One of the most popular definitions for health literacy comes from Ratzan and Parker (2000), who describe health literacy as “the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions.” Recent research has extrapolated health literacy into health literacy bits, further shedding light on the multiple phases and literacy practices that are embedded within the multifaceted concept of health literacy. Although this research has focused primarily on online health information seeking, these health literacy bits are needed to successfully navigate both print and online sources. There are six phases of health information seeking: (1) Information Need Identification and Question Formulation, (2) Information Search, (3) Information Comprehension, (4) Information Assessment, (5) Information Management, and (6) Information Use. The first phase is the information need identification and question formu- lation phase. In this phase, one needs to be able to develop and refine a range of questions to frame one’s search and understand relevant health terms. In the second phase, information search, one has to possess appro- priate searching skills, such as using proper keywords and correct spelling in search terms, especially when using search engines and databases. It is also crucial to understand how search engines work (i.e., how search
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