Founding of the Portuguese Association of Health Skills «after 10 intensive years of training»

January 19, 2022 marks “a very special day for health literacy in Portugal,” said Cristina Vaz de Almeida, chair of the board of directors of the brand-new Portuguese Association of Health Literacy (SPLS), which has now been formally established.

THE just news had the opportunity to follow the signing of the deed, performed in a registry office in Lisbon, and witness the great satisfaction and joy of six of the founders of SPLS, a project that brings together dozens of professionals from all over the country.

In addition to Cristina Vaz de Almeida, Luísa Nogueira (Chairman of the Audit Committee), Patrícia Martins and Susana Ramos (Vice-Chairmen of the Council), Ivone Correia Marques (Chairman of the Ethics Committee) and Cecília Nunes (Vice-Chairman of the Ethics Committee ).

Luísa Nogueira, Patrícia Martins, Ivone Correia Marques, Cristina Vaz de Almeida, Susana Ramos and Cecília Nunes

In statements to just newsCristina Vaz de Almeida begins by recalling the long road that has been traveled: “For many years now, I and a group of health literacy specialists have laid a good foundation in this field, be it in the citizen or the education from professionals in the health fields, where I have this specialty.”

It also refers to the importance of the fact that “Portugal has had a national health, literacy and self-care program since 2016”.

A project that is the result of 10 years of work

SPLS’ 22 founding partners include many health professionals from different levels of care, as well as from other areas, including communications, and from different regions of the country.

According to Cristina Vaz de Almeida, the work developed over the past ten years in the framework of the Post-Graduation in Health Literacy at ISPA will have been essential to start a new project with this degree of diversity. In fact, this remains “the only higher school in Portugal to have conducted advanced training in health literacy since 2012”.

This course, precisely coordinated by Cristina Vaz de Almeida, was later transformed into a Post-Graduate course in 2016: “It has a set of professors “bringing together different disciplines, in addition to health literacy, models, strategies and intervention, such as communication in the field of health, health marketing, resources and statistics, health psychology, mediation and conflict management, motivational interviewing, persuasion, patient safety and creativity”.

According to him, there is no doubt: “It is this set of disciplines that enriches the deeper knowledge of health literacy, which is intended to be applied in practice.” In this context, the creation of the SPLS seems to be a natural process, “after fieldwork carried out by many professionals during 10 intense years of health literacy structuring and training in Portugal”.

Cristina Vaz de Almeida

Health skills… in practice

The Postgraduate Health Literacy in Practice, as the name implies, has a very practical aspect. Cristina Vaz de Almeida adds that almost all of her students have shown over the years that they have a proactive profile.

These are health professionals who, as he underlines, are “interested in getting closer to the user, making themselves understood, improving the therapeutic encounter, communicating better, facilitating the adherence process and therefore the most. These professionals develop health literacy projects in their organizations or beyond. That is why we also created SPLS, to make the projects of these professionals and organizations visible.”

Cristina Vaz de Almeida regrets “not being able to talk about everyone” and gives some (practical) examples of health literacy projects developed as part of ISPA Graduate Studies:

International Literacy Day
the project of ebooks dedicated to health literacy, promoted by nurses Berta Augusto, Sérgio Abrunheiro and Carlos Fernandes, of the Health Literacy Group of the Centro Hospitalar e Universitário de Coimbra (CHUC).
Over the years, these professionals have marked International Literacy Day with an intervention that aims to promote knowledge and good practices in health literacy.

live + with knowledge
Nurse Patrícia Martins, from the Arco Ribeirinho Health Unit, developed a project for the elderly in the community “Viver + com saber”, based on the principles of health literacy and the dimensions of access, understanding and use of the information necessary for their better health and self-care. It used the ACP model – Assertiveness, clarity and positivity in communication (Vaz de Almeida, 2018) and associated strategies that motivate the participation and follow-up of the elders’ project.

Mental health in schools
Nurse Tânia Morgado, in Coimbra, is completing her PhD in mental health literacy, with a project that will give students better access to mental health information, understanding of terms and symptoms and the use of services, in a dynamic process and in collaboration with schools.

The suitcase of pregnant women and falls in the elderly
Doctor Diogo Franco Santos developed a project to adapt leaflets for pregnant women in the last trimester and the elderly in which, through assertive, clear and positive language (ACP model), the steps and actions that these target groups should take in the different situations.
In the case of pregnant women, the “suitcase” and items they should prepare before going to the maternity ward, just as the elderly should do to prevent falls, so common from age 65.

Train and inspire more than 5000 healthcare professionals

Cristina Vaz de Almeida’s path has also been through advanced training in health organizations for many years and the result is clearly encouraging: “I am actually very happy to see that more and more organizations are engaged in applying health literacy in daily practice, in communication between health professionals and in the relationship with users.”

Since 2012, ISPA’s advanced training has provided “more than 300 professionals with courses taken annually”. However, the advanced health literacy training delivered by Cristina Vaz de Almeida in health organizations, as well as the numerous interventions at various conferences, cover a significant number of people. “That number should exceed 5,000 health professionals right now,” acknowledges the researcher and health literacy specialist.

Investing in health literacy “save lives”

Looking to the future, the path is well defined, according to Cristina Vaz de Almeida: “We will continue to work to promote, support and further promote health literacy projects in our country. This is what we have done. The founding partners of SPLS They are brilliant people and I know we will do a good job for better health outcomes because that’s what it’s all about.”

The SPLS Chair also added: “We have partnerships with health authorities (DGS), health services, non-governmental organizations such as patient associations, municipalities, schools, social sector entities and others, who are increasingly recognizing the importance of investing in health literacy effective ‘lifesavers’.”

And who can integrate and collaborate in SPLS actions? “Those who are interested in health literacy in Portugal and who can contribute, growing this group, which is already large. Everyone is welcome,” assures Cristina Vaz de Almeida.

You can find out HERE who the 22 founding partners of SPLS are, as well as the assignments and powers of this new project.



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