Assessment of Health Literacy Levels Amongst Cancer Surviors in Nairobi Support Groups

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Assessment of Health Literacy Levels Amongst Cancer Surviors in Nairobi Support Groups

Muthoni C. Laura*, Dr. Owino George, Dr. Muia Daniel
Kenyatta University, Department of Sociology, Gender & Development Studies P.O. Box 43844 00100, Nairobi Kenya.
*ORCHID REFERENCE: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9996-5915
DOI: https://doi.org/10.51244/IJRSI.2023.10402
Received: 09 March 2023; Revised: 23 March 2023; Accepted: 29 March 2023; Published: 28 April 2023

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Abstract— Non-communicable diseases account for 71% of deaths globally giving rise to Health literacy as a strategy in management. While this is a worthwhile, there is need to measure and assess the health literacy levels of target beneficiaries as one way of evaluating effectiveness of health education programs. This study was undertaken with the objective of measuring the health literacy levels of cancer survivors in support groups within Nairobi (Kenya). A sample of 152 members of support group were subjected to a short health literacy test covering basic health topics discussed during support group meetings. Results indicated that majority of support group members had good knowledge of health topics and requirements for healthy behaviour. It was evident that health literacy sessions had successfully increased knowledge levels amongst support group members. Key recommendations included creating robust referral links to health literacy education for all cancer survivors.

Keywords— Health Literacy; Health Literacy Test; Health Behavior; Non-Communicable Diseases

I. Introduction
Proponents of health behaviour change have identified information and education as key elements in improving or changing behavioural patterns that influence health. This concept has been referred to as health literacy and has been used as a tool for management of both communicable and non-communicable diseases. Health literacy refers to ccognitive and social skills that empower individuals to understand, and use information in ways that promote and maintain good health. It involves planned efforts to provide targeted beneficiaries with knowledge and skills that empower them to make proper health decisions [1]. As such, health literacy has been incorporated in many global and national healthcare programs, especially those managing patients with long term illness. It is assumed that these patients are likely to enjoy better health due to adoption of improved health care behavior [2]. In the last decade, health literacy has been incorporated in health education programs such as cancer psychosocial support groups. This has not only improved the health of cancer patients but has contributed to reduced cases of mortality [3]. In Kenya, the government through the Ministry of Health has developed policy documents that outline the need to avail health information and education with the aim of promoting health behaviors [4].

To this effect, several non-profit organizations in Kenya have supported this strategy and facilitated the rollout of health literacy programs for cancer patients, both at health facility and community levels. By working through organized groups commonly referred to as support groups, these organizations create opportunities for regular dialogue between cancer health care professionals and patients undergoing cancer management [5]. Through this interrelationship, cancer patients not only receive social support, but are presented with the opportunity to access updated health knowledge and information. However, it is imperative to provide health literacy that can be understood, to enable the recipient translate it to practical use. In essence, this calls for the need to measure the amount of knowledge received and understood by the recipients. In the absence of assessment of health literacy levels, health literacy providers cannot effectively adopt health education to desired recipients needs and in the long run comprise the desired purpose of empowering patients [6]. This study sought to establish the levels of health literacy of cancer survivors who are members of cancer support groups within Nairobi. It was anticipated that findings would provide that would enhance cancer health literacy programs in Kenya.