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A regional ministerial meeting on the theme of "Promoting Health Literacy" was held on 29-30 April in Beijing, China. The meeting, which is part of the preparatory process for the 2009 Annual Ministerial Review (AMR), was hosted by the Government of China and organized in cooperation with the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP).

Participants included health ministers and policy makers from the member states of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) entrusted with the implementation of national development strategies. Experts, academia and representatives of the private sector have also attended the meeting.

Health Literacy – the ability to gain access to, understand and use health information for promoting and maintaining good health – is an important factor in the overall public health of a country. By improving people’s access to health information and their capacity to use it effectively, health literacy is critical to significantly increase the effectiveness of health care programmes and treatment.

Questions that have been discussed included:   

  • What are the present levels of health literacy throughout Asia-Pacific?
  • What are the key determinants of health literacy?
  • How to measure health literacy?
  • How to increase health literacy through policy development and practical measures?
  • Multisectoral action: Who's doing what?
  • How can information and communication technologies (ICTs) help to increase health literacy?

For more information on the meeting, please contact Mr. Alberto Padova, Office for ECOSOC Support and Coordination, UN/DESA (+1 212 963-4759,