To assess whether Health Literacy (HL) acts as a determinant of obesity in adults and children by synthesizing the results of recent scientific evidence.
This is a systematic qualitative review following the MOOSE guidelines. A systematic, computer-assisted literature search via PubMed scientific database, between January 1st, 2000, and September 30th 2020, was conducted. Only cross-sectional epidemiologic research studies that were published in the English language, investigating HL’s possible role as a determinant of childhood and adult obesity, were included.
After screening 725 citations from the PubMed database, 39 (n=39) studies in total were included in this literature review; Four (n=4) studies were conducted in the children population, seven (n=7) studies were performed in children-parent/caregiver dyads, and 28 studies (n=28) enrolled adults. There is significant evidence that HL knowledge and skills determine the consequent management of obesity and BMI rates in children and adult populations.
Despite policies and action plans put in place by countries globally, overweight and obesity continue to be a pressing public health issue and one of the critical drivers of non-communicable diseases, constituting a health, social and economic burden worldwide. Health Literacy as an essential health policy and promotion agenda item and a critical empowerment strategy could increase children’s and adults’ control over their overall health and awareness to overcome obesity issues. Initiatives to improve HL levels could be useful tools in managing the obesity epidemic, starting from integrating HL in the school curriculum and further in family and community action plans.