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

Older and Wiser: Putting the Consumer’s Voice at the Centre of Residential Aged Care

Researchers at the Institute for Health and Ageing at the Australian Catholic University have released their report ‘Older and Wiser: Putting the Consumer’s Voice at the Centre of Residential Aged Care’. The report summarises the results found in a study to explore the impact of Consumer Directed Care on six aged care facilities in Melbourne. The report highlights what more needs to be done to support these changes to aged care services in Australia. You can download and view the report here.

Report into the Independent review of chaperones to protect patients

The Medical Board of Australia (MBA) and Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) have released the report ‘Independent review of the use of chaperones to protect patients in Australia’’ and have accepted all its recommendations. The review found the use of chaperones does not meet community expectations and does not always keep patients safe. You can find out more and view the report here.

Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency Performance Data

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) releases quarterly performance reports for each state and territory. These reports provide information for the public on the activities and performance of AHPRA and the National Boards in each state and territory. It covers their main areas of activity – managing registration, managing notifications and offences against the National Law, and monitoring health practitioners and students with restrictions on their registration. You can view the reports for each state and territory and find out more here.

Judy Smith recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours

HCA member and consumer advocate Judy Smith has been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours, by being admitted as Member of the Order of Australia. Judy has over 50 years experience in health, commencing her career as a nurse and more recently working as a consumer advocate. Judy is an active consumer advocate and HCA member and currently works part time as a Consumer Liaison Officer at the Royal District Nursing Service (RDNS). We congratulate Judy on this recognition of many years of work in community health. You can read more about Judy below.

Media Release: Judy Smith

Mental Health Consumer Carer Participation newsletter

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Mental Health Consumer Carer Participation newsletter


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Events

St. Vincent de Paul CEO Sleepout

Saturday 29 June 2017

Each year on a cold winter’s night in June, a group of like-minded CEOs, senior managers and leaders from all sectors come together to raise funds and awareness on the reality of homelessness in Australia. This year in South Australia, the sleep out will be held on the grounds of Government House and joined by the host for the evening’s proceedings, Kate Ceberano. You don't need to be a CEO to get involved. You can find out more, register and donate here.

KYD-X Kids & Youth Disability Expo.

Saturday 14 October 2017

The kids and youth disability expo, hosted by KYD-X, is focused on the services and products available for people under 25 with a disability. It aims to inform individuals, families and carers about equipment, therapies and treatments available to them, helping them to maximise the use of their NDIS funding. You can find out more here. 

Joint ACHSM/ACHS Asia-Pacific Health leadership #2017 congress

Wednesday 27 – Friday 29 – September 2017
The Annual Australasian college of Health Service Management (ACHSM) in partnership with the Australian Council on Healthcare Standards (ACHS) will host the  2017 Health Leadership conference. The conference will bring together renowned thought-leaders from within and outside the healthcare system, with the central theme of, the winds of Change-adjust your sails’. You can find out more and register here.

Connecting Asthma Care Conference

Monday 16 – Tuesday 17 October 2017

The 2017 Asthma Australia Connecting Asthma Care Conference will bring together key national and international researchers, practitioners and policy makers. The conference theme, ‘Connecting Asthma Care’, highlights the importance of collaborative care models as critical in ensuring a patient’s interaction with the health system is linked between different levels of care, enabling appropriate case management and systematic follow up. You can find out more and register to attend here.

Mental Illness Fellowship South Australia Carer Support Program schedule

The Mental Illness Fellowship of South Australia has released its Carer Support Program schedule for the second half of 2017. The program offers different peer educated programs for people who are experiencing mental illness, and for their family and friends. All facilitators have lived experience, either as a carer, or as a person living with a mental illness. You can view the flyer below which outlines more information about the programs and dates. You can book a place online through the MIFSA website here or by phoning 8378 4100.

Carer Support Program


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