Evaluating Online Health Information Mini-Course

From KNILT

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Overview and Purpose

Health literacy is usually defined as "the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions" (NNLM/NIH,n.d.). Health information is more accessible than ever before. With a plethora of health information on the Internet, it is hard to discern what is factual. According to researchers, many Americans have low levels of health literacy.

This course aims to combat health misinformation found on the Internet by equipping students with the knowledge to find and appraise online health information. Through this mini-course, high school health educators will learn how to integrate health information literacy standards within their existing courses.

Needs Assessment

According to the CDC and Healthy People 2030, health literacy is defined as “the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions” (CDC, 2021). With so much information on the internet, it is difficult for individuals to discern whether or not the information they are reading is authoritative. In an age where information is widely shared with a Tweet or a Facebook post, misinformation can spread like wildfire. In fact, a study “concluded that most of the messages had false information and that 'bad' tweets were more retweeted than the ones with truthful information” (Fernández-Luque & Bau, 2015, p.71).

Health literacy is important for one’s wellbeing and decisions regarding one’s care. When one understands and has access to accurate health information, one can make informed decisions. In fact, studies have shown that improved health literacy levels decrease avoidable hospitalizations by 26%, hospital readmissions by 9%, and lowers emergency visits by 18% (United Health Group, 2020). Overall, improving health literacy levels could prevent one million hospitalizations and save health care twenty-five billion dollars a year (United Health Group, 2020).

Health literacy levels could be improved within the United States, as “only 12% of adults have a high level of health literacy” (Vecchiarelli, 2018, para. 1). Vulnerable populations at risk for lower health literacy levels include “older adults, immigrant populations, minority populations, and low-income populations” (NNLM, n.d., para. 10).

There are different ways to improve health literacy (or health information literacy). The National Plan to Improve Health Literacy offers seven goals to improve health literacy levels within the United States population. One way is to “incorporate accurate, standards-based, and developmentally appropriate health and science information and curricula in child care and education through the university level” (Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, 2010, p. 1).

Not every health education class includes segments on ways to critically evaluate online health information. This course will explain to health education teachers the importance of health literacy- specifically health information literacy. It will provide skills and resources to create a health literacy-centered class or lesson plan.

Performance Objectives

  • Effectively identify health literacy and explain the benefits of implementing health information literacy into an existing lesson
  • Successfully locate and appraise the quality of online health information
  • Implement and integrate health information literacy skills training into an existing curriculum or lesson plan

Works Cited

Course Units

Unit 1: An Introduction to Health Literacy

Unit 1 introduces the important terminology and background information on health literacy. Throughout the learning units, educators will learn how to instruct students on how to "obtain" quality online health information.

Unit 2: Evaluating Health Information on the Internet

As mentioned in the previous module, health literacy is defined as “the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions” (CDC, 2021). With so much health information readily available on the Internet, it is often difficult for consumers to discern the quality of the information they are reading. In this module, you will learn how to go through the steps on how to obtain quality health information.

Unit 3: Integrating Health Literacy Skills in the Classroom

Bringing it all together! We have gone over the importance of health literacy and critical appraisal techniques in the last two units. This unit will take our newfound knowledge and skills and integrate them into an existing lesson plan (or better- create a new lesson)! This lesson plan should have a technological component and incorporate important concepts and skills covered in units one and two.