This paper provides an overview of and commentary on existing research in the area of literacy and health. The aim of the paper is to discuss the contributions of four fields of research to our understanding of health literacy. These four fields are: medical research and health education; literacy studies; linguistics and discourse analysis; and medical sociology and anthropology. Researchers from each of these four fields have studied the role of reading and writing in healthcare contexts, albeit from different perspectives and with different conclusions. Over the course of the following pages, what these perspectives are, and in what ways they contribute to our understanding of what health literacy is and how it is learned and taught, will be explained. Several other disciplines also contribute to ongoing research and theorising in this area, for example communication studies and psychology. These have not been included here.
Papen, U. (2008) Understanding literacy and health: a literature review from four fields of research: medical research and health education; literacy studies; linguistics and discourse analysis; medical anthropology and sociology. NRDC: London