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Health literacy at the center of the personalised medicine debate


30 Sep 2015


Health & Consumers
Health literacy as the capacity to make sound health decisions becomes a central skill for citizens and patients in the age of health genomics and personalised medicine. A lunch debate, hosted by MEP Françoise Grossetête with representatives from the European Commission, the Luxembourg Presidency and the health literacy platform discussed the need for European framework on citizen’s role in future health and health literacy.
Increasing knowledge in genomics and the advent of personalised medicine present a promising shift in detecting and treating diseases. They promise a new level of treating diseases and offer new options for individuals. But they also require citizens and patients to take more complex and challenging health decisions, as pointed out during the conference on Personalised Medicine of the Luxembourg Presidency.  
Health literacy as the capacity to make sound health decisions1 becomes therefore even more a central skill for citizens and patients to navigate future health. However, as the European Health Literacy Survey (HLS.EU) in eight EU countries unveiled, one in two respondents (47%) has limited health literacy.  
At today’s informal lunch debate in the European Parliament, Ms Françoise Grossetête MEP, Ms Anne Calteux from the Luxembourg Presidency, Mr Sylvian Giraud from the European Commission and Dr Patrick Romestaing representative for the health literacy stakeholder platform discussed the role of the patient in the current personalised medicine debate. 
Developments in genomics and the advent of personalised medicine provide huge opportunities. However, whether we are successful or not depends on the involvement of citizens and patients. Therefore we need to do more to improve health literacy.”- Françoise Grossetête MEP
Personalised medicine change the healthcare debate. Health is not necessarily conditioned by a given set of factors and solutions but can be actively shaped. 
Personalised medicine require a close involvement of patients. As a one-fits all solution will not be applicable anymore, patients and doctors need to communicate even more in the future” – Dr Patrick Romestaing, CPME Board Member, French Medical Order (CNOM) and health literacy coalition representative.
Given today’s budgetary constraints and the need for cost-efficient treatments whilst ensuring access to healthcare to all patients, an inclusive approach is needed.
A recent study financed by the EU Health programme HEALIT4EU provides data on interventions to improve health literacy in EU Member States. It shows that, to be effective, such interventions should be tailored to the specific needs of the groups with inadequate health literacy and should target critical and/or interactive skills and competencies (and not only knowledge)”. – Sylvain Giraud, European Commission
For this very reason a strong political will and support is needed to place the patient at the heart of the debate and promote health literacy. 
The Luxembourg Presidency aims to lay the ground for a long-term patient centred approach and actively supports empowerment of patients. For this reason we have included health literacy in our draft Council conclusions on personalised medicine as one element to take into account to ensure the integration of personalised medicine into clinical practice”. – Anne Calteux, Luxembourg Ministry of Health

1 Health Literacy Consensus Paper “Making health literacy a priority in EU policy”, June 2013