Getting the message across – the health literacy challenge

Linda Beaver

The Health Education Consulting Company Pty Ltd, #48, 21 Battye St, Bruce ACT 2617 E: linda@healtheducationmedia.com.au

Working in a rural and remote environment places extra responsibility on the health care system to provide resources and structure to support health service provision. Supporting the ‘ownership’ of personal health as a growing expectation, necessitates the recognition of health literacy issues amongst the adult population in this country.

For patients, the understanding, remembering and applying health information provided by health care practitioners is often challenging. Being able to benefit from health information necessitates an ability to fully grasp the applications and implications of the information. If every second adult has a less than average ability to comprehend and use health information (ABS, 2006), the health care community, as a whole, has a responsibility to provide health information in a straightforward, relevant, context driven format, accessible and targeted to an individual’s needs.

Helping to start conversations, share experiences and draw on a variety of resources can empower community members to ask the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of their health care.

Using an ‘Awareness, Respect and Action’ model to patient communication can generate change in the way in which the information pathway is managed by health care professionals.

Basic principles of adult learning, styles and preference underpin the required strategies. Challenging the status quo will encourage the providers of health care to consider and refine communication, consultation dialogue and patient instruction.

My presentation will consider the problems of health literacy, what it means to the community, ways to generate a changing mindset for health care providers and options for improved information resources.

Biography

Having been an allied health care practitioner, clinician, educator and manager in the health industry, working in both city and rural locations, Linda is passionate about helping people learn about their own health and ways to manage it. Since completing a Bachelor Adult and Vocational Education, the issues of health literacy and the correlation between the information available and expectations for consumers to take more responsibility for personal health care and management, places enormous responsibility on health care providers. Linda is currently writing a book to address the consumer needs and issues related to understanding and working with health information.