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.

Latest news

HCA 2018 Election Platform

Health Consumers Alliance of SA Inc is the state’s peak health consumer body. Our members, partners and consumer advocates have identified priorities for action to ensure consumers are at the centre of health in South Australia. They want health policy based on evidence, research and consumer input at all stages to improve health outcomes and reduce costs. You can find the HCA 2018 Election Platform and Background below. 

HCA 2018 Election Platform

HCA 2018 Election Platform Background

HCA Board Chair participating in Collaborative Pairs Australia

Beginning soon as a national trial in Australia, the Collaborative Pairs Australia program is bringing together health providers and consumers to develop their teamwork skills, to lead change and improve health and wellbeing outcomes. The program will deliver leadership training to participants who enrol as consumer-clinician pairs in four regions, and support them to implement localised health service improvement and innovation projects. HCA Board Chair Deb Kay is one of the program facilitators. Deb is optimistic about the potential of this project to build the capacity and expertise of consumers and health professionals to work in genuine partnership. You can find more information on the program and Deb’s participation here.

HCA February 2018 Board Update

At the HCA Board meeting on 5 February 2018, members discussed a range of topics, including changes to Board membership, progress in recruiting a new HCA Chief Executive, and the HCA 2018 Election Platform. You can read the Board Update here.

Consumer Advocates Network Meeting

Last Tuesday we hosted our first Consumer Advocates Network (CAN) meeting for 2018. At each meeting of the CAN, we include a specific topic for discussion or learning. The topic for the February meeting was the SA Translation Centre, with guest speaker Jenni Carr. All members of the CAN network have completed our Introduction to Consumer Advocacy Training course. You can find out more about the training and scheduled training dates for 2018 here.

Oakden Response Plan Oversight Committee: February Communique

The SA Health Oakden Response Plan Oversight Committee was established in June 2017 to provide oversight and guidance to SA Health in implementing the six recommendations outlined in the Oakden Report. Following each meeting, a communique summarising the activities of the committee is published. The February 2018 communique has been published and is available to view here. You can view all available communiques here.


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Events

Inspiration for Innovation Symposium: The Health Priority Network

Thursday 1 March 2018

9.30am – 1.30pm
Torrensville

The Adelaide Primary Health Network (PHN) is hosting an Inspiration for Innovation Symposium at the Thebarton Community Centre, with the aim to encourage community members to join their Health Priority Network. The Network provides a platform to share ideas and work together to improve a person’s primary health care journey. The symposium will explore opportunities for improving:

• health promotion and health literacy
• mental health, alcohol and other drugs, and physical
health issues
• equity and access for Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander communities.

You can find out more and register to attend here.

Health Project Management Community of Practice

Wednesday 4 April 2018
5.30pm – 7.00pm
Adelaide

The Australian Institute of Project Management is hosting an event on health project management, the first event in a series. Registered participants will explore the challenges in project management in health. Guest Speaker Professor Judith Dwyer, Director of Research in the Department of Health Care Management at the Flinders University School of Medicine, will present ideas formed in the course of her working life in healthcare management. Participants will be encouraged to contribute their perspectives and stories following the presentation. You can view the event flyer to find out more below. 

Health Project Management Flyer

Working with people with lived experiences

Tuesday 6 March 2018
9.30am – 12.30pm
Hindmarsh

Participants of the working with people with lived experiences workshop will explore the current and potential role of people with lived experience within their services. It will also employ examples to highlight the complexities and the innovation in practice to help guide future direction in this area. There will be a focus on people with a CALD background. Please email your RSVP to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or phone 8245 8100. More information is available on the flyer below.

Working with people with lived experience

National Disability Insurance Scheme information session

Monday 26 February 2018

5pm – 6.30pm

North Adelaide Community Centre

The National Disability Insurance Agency is running an information session to help people with disability, their families, and carers to:

gain information about accessing the NDIS
understand what may be included in an NDIS plan
prepare for their first planning conversation.

This session is for people who seek access to the NDIS or who already have gained eligibility for the NDIS. You can find out more and register here.

Closing the Gap Day 2018

Thursday 22 March 2018

The Northern Health Network invites you to join them for a celebration of Indigenous culture at Closing the Gap Day, to be held at the Adelaide Showground. The day is a free all-ages event which aims to bring together people from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to share information and take meaningful action in support of achieving Indigenous health equality by 2030. You can find out more and register here.


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