Phone: 08 8231 4169 | Email: info@hcasa.asn.au | Find HCASA on FacebookFollow HCASA on Twitter

Phone: 08 8231 4169
Email: info@hcasa.asn.au
Find HCASA on FacebookFollow HCASA on Twitter

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Consumers at the centre of health
in South Australia

An introduction to health literacy

At Health Consumers Alliance of SA Inc (HCA), we believe that health literacy is a fundamentally important component of safe and high quality health care. As part of our vision – Consumers at the centre of health in South Australia - we seek to promote and support the individual health literacy of consumers, as well as the health literacy environment of service providers.

The information on health literacy below is largely sourced from the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care1. It works in partnership with patients, consumers, clinicians, managers, policy makers and healthcare organisations to achieve a sustainable, safe and high-quality health system.


What is health literacy?

Your health literacy is much more than your ability to read, write, communicate and seek health information. It is a safety and quality issue for everyone who uses and works in the health system.

The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (the Commission) separates health literacy into two components:
1. Individual health literacy – is the skills, knowledge, motivation and capacity of a person to access, understand, appraise and apply information to make effective decisions about health and health care and take appropriate action.

2. Health literacy environment – is the infrastructure, policies, processes, materials, people and relationships that make up the health system, and have an impact on the way that people access, understand, appraise and apply health-related information and services.


Why is health literacy important?

The Commission’s National Statement on Health Literacy states that health literacy plays an important role in enabling effective partnerships between consumers and service providers.

For partnerships to work, everyone involved needs to be able to give and receive, interpret and act on information such as treatment options and plans.

Having consumers who are partners in the processes of health and health care is necessary for safe and high quality care. This also plays an important role in reducing health inequality.


How can individual health literacy impact on you?

Health literacy is important to your health and wellbeing, and to the safety and quality of your health care.

Your ability to access, understand, appraise and apply information impacts on your health and wellbeing.
• Access refers to your ability to seek, find and obtain health information.
• Understand refers to your ability to comprehend the health information that you access.
• Appraise describes your ability to interpret, filter, judge and evaluate the health information that you access.
• Apply refers to your ability to communicate and use the information to make decisions to maintain and improve your health.2

Your expectations and previous experiences, the quality of information provided, and the relationship with your health service provider all play a role too.

Only about 40% of adults have the level of individual health literacy they need to be able to make well-informed decisions and take action about their health. Some of the impacts of low health literacy can include:
• difficulty understanding health information
• not taking medications correctly
• poorer knowledge of health conditions
• less use of preventive health services, like screening or vaccinations
• more visits to hospital
• poorer health status.1

Your health literacy is not fixed in every situation. It can change depending on several factors, like how well you feel, how much stress you are under, and how tired you are.

For more information, have a look at the Commission’s document, Health Literacy: A summary for Consumers.


Why does the health literacy environment matter?

The health literacy environment can either help or hinder your individual health literacy, and your health outcomes.

The Commission describes the health literacy environment as being all around you. It is how you get information about health, where you get it and who you get it from. For example, it includes health product packaging and design, information hospitals send you in preparation for procedures, medication information provided by your health practitioner or information provided by your health insurer.

It also includes the health services you use, how they are organised, how complicated they are, and how much they support you to make the best health decisions for you. Examples of this include how well signs and instructions are displayed in a hospital; how you are provided with information about referrals; the type of steps you need to take to make a medical appointment; how you claim your Medicare refund, and the support you are provided with to maintain your health care plan.

The health literacy environment can be hard to understand – different professions often speak in jargon; people make assumptions about what you already know; and healthcare processes vary between health practitioners and health services.

Through accreditation processes and support from organisations like the Commission, and NPS Medicine Wise healthcare services are increasingly looking at ways to improve their health literacy environment – to make their information, systems and processes easier to understand and use.

1. Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care – Health Literacy page.

2. Sørensen et al. Health literacy and public health: A systematic review and integration of definitions and models. BMC Public Health 2012, 12:80.

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The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Healthcare, in consultation with clinical experts from across Australia, has developed the hospital-acquired complications information kit. This kit has been developed to improve the safety and quality of health services, and outcomes for Australian patients. The kit also provides insights for consumers on health service activities relating to safety and quality. You can find out more here.

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HealthPathways South Australia is a free online portal for GPs, practice nurses and other health professionals. It provides them with easy access to comprehensive, evidence-based clinical information, and local referral resources relevant to patient care. With the recent launch of HealthPathways in SA, consumers may see their health providers using this portal. More information and a video that explains HealthPathways South Australia is available here.

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Julia Overton Biography


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Events

Asthma Masterclass

Monday 9 April 2018
10am - 11.30am

Asthma Foundation SA, Hilton

Would you like to learn to live well with asthma? Asthma Masterclasses aim to increase your knowledge and confidence in managing asthma. Learning more about what asthma is and how to respond to symptoms will help you feel in control of your condition. Learn more about the medications, how to use them and when. We also look at worsening asthma, and teach Asthma First Aid. This is essential information for everyone with asthma, or those caring for others with asthma. You can find all training dates in 2018, Kids Asthma Masterclass details, and register to attend here.

Webinar: Difficult-to-treat and severe asthma - changing the paradigm

Tuesday 1 May 2018

7:00 – 8:00 pm (AEST)

NPS MedicineWise is hosting a webinar on difficult-to-treat and severe asthma. Many asthma sufferers experience uncontrolled asthma and poor outcomes, despite high-dose standard therapy. The webinar aims to explore new therapies which may improve the health outcomes for people who suffer severe asthma. An expert panel will convene for a multidisciplinary discussion on new therapies, and how to identify and manage difficult-to-treat and severe asthma. You can find out more and register here.

Webinar: Heavy menstrual bleeding: Delivering best practice forum

Monday 7 May 2018

9.30am – 3.00pm

The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care invites consumers to participate in their upcoming webinar on the Heavy Menstrual Bleeding Clinical Care Standard (the Standard). The Standard was developed in response to significant variation in the rate of hysterectomy and endometrial ablation surgical procedures to treat heavy menstrual bleeding, as identified in both the first and the second Australian Atlas of Healthcare Variation. The webinar will provide participants the opportunity to learn more about the Standard. You can find out more and register to attend here.

7th Strong Aboriginal Children's Health Expo

Thursday 19 April 2018
11am - 3.00pm

Adelaide Entertainment Centre
 
SA Health DeadlyKidsSA, in partnership with Watto Purrunna Aboriginal Primary Health Care Service and Nunkuwarrin Yunti, is hosting this free expo in April. Aboriginal families are encouraged to come along for a day of healthy activities and information in a fun environment. Kids can complete the "My Deadly Health Journey" and receive a showbag! You can find out more and register to attend here

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day Conference

Friday 15 June 2018

8am - 4pm
Glenelg

This year's World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) Conference program has been developed with the theme around 'Prevention to Intervention'. The purpose of the WEAAD is to encourage communities to recognise the issues concerning abuse of older people, and for our society to create policies that promote dignity and respect for older people. The conference will demonstrate strategies developed and used by professionals in a variety of fields. You can find out more about the conference here.


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