Health literacy of disadvantaged groups

The FOPH supports efforts to improve the health literacy of migrants and other disadvantaged target groups living in Switzerland.

Being health literate means being empowered to make important day-to-day decisions about your own health and as a result, preventing the excessive or insufficient use of healthcare services and therefore avoiding inappropriate treatment and unnecessary costs.

Scientific studies prove that the health literacy of Switzerland’s migrant population needs to be improved. Following areas are problematic among certain groups:

  • high-risk behaviours with regard to own health (smoking, poor diet, being overweight);
  • increased incidence of sexually-transmitted, parasitic or infectious diseases;
  • failure to attend check-ups and poor dental health;
  • lack of knowledge about how the health system works resulting in its misuse;
  • communication difficulties when using healthcare services.

Good communication is crucial

On behalf of the FOPH, the website migesplus aims to reinforce the health literacy of migrants and other disadvantaged target groups by providing information and courses that are disseminated in the form of health promotion and integration programmes or language courses. Target groups that are particularly difficult to reach are addressed through Femmes-Tische (Women’s Roundtable) programmes.

Healthcare professionals also have an important role to play in improving the health literacy of disadvantaged groups. Good communication, a mutual willingness to engage and a relationship based on trust are crucial in developing the health literacy of patients. See the study on this in the infobox below: ‘Compétences en matière de santé. Relation patient - professionnel de santé et accès à l’information relative à la santé’ (in French with a summary in German and English).

Last modification 26.09.2019

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Federal Office of Public Health FOPH
Health Strategies Division
Health Equity Section
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