As we write our editorial for a health literacy special issue in the midst of the international COVID-19 crisis, we take this opportunity to highlight the importance of individual, community, and population health literacy. We are not only in a “pandemic” but also an “infodemic”. Health literacy is more important than ever in the face of these global health threats, which have impacted outcomes across the levels of the socio-ecological model (SEM), including individual health behaviors, family relationships, organizational behavior, state policy-making, national mortality statistics, and the international economy in the span of weeks. Our special issue sought to pull together interdisciplinary threads guided by two principles. The first was defining health literacy as essential skills and situational resources needed for people to find, understand, evaluate, communicate, and use information and services in a variety of forms across various settings throughout their life course to promote health and wellbeing. The second was the idea that enhancing health literacy in populations and systems is critical to achieving health equity. In this time of public health need across traditional borders, the inter-sectoral and international perspectives of special issue articles are more urgent than ever. A greater understanding, appreciation, and application of health literacy can support policy action on multiple levels to address major public health challenges. Health literacy should be built deliberately as a population-level resource and community asset. We have summarized the set of articles in this special issue across the levels of the SEM, hoping their thoughtful considerations and interesting findings will help to support global health and wellness and inspire future research, policy, and practice in this global public health emergency and beyond.
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