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

Summary report for the Oakden Response Plan Oversight Committee released

The final Oakden Response Report is now available. It provides a comprehensive record of the work undertaken by the Oakden Report Response Plan Oversight Committee, on which HCA was a member. The committee was established under recommendations outlined in the Oakden Report It is intended to provide a complete reference point for policy documents and guidelines created in response to the Oakden Report recommendations for use by SA Health staff and staff of partner organisations providing services to older people in South Australia. The document contains details of the work of the Committee and its subcommittees and complete copies of all relevant outputs. You can download the document below. 

 Oakden Response Plan Oversight Committee Final Report

NPS MedicineWise

Monday 20 – Sunday 26 August 2018

Next week is Be Medicinewise Week. The theme this year is ''Our Families Matter'', so it’s important to make safe and wise decisions about medicines and health. No matter what type of medicines you or your family take, it’s important to know your medicines. If medicines aren’t used correctly, the results can be serious. You can find out more about being Medicinewise here.

Pelvic Mesh morning tea

HCA’s Chief Executive, Julia Overton was invited to attend a morning tea held in SA Parliament House and hosted by the Pelvic Mesh Awareness Group. The morning brought people with lived experience together with members of parliament, industry experts and SA health. Thank you to the mesh affected women who attended and shared their experiences with us.

There is a SA Health Transvaginal Mesh Strategy in place now which includes:

- a free consumer support line 1800 666 374, staffed 9am to 4pm Monday to Friday
- establishment of The Consumer Advisory Group
- distribution of information via GP newsletters
- commencement of medical record audit
- establishment of The Executive Advisory Group and Clinical Reference Group.

You can find out more here

Carers SA Strategic Plan 2018-2019

Carers SA has released its Strategic Plan 2018-2019. This is an important document which will guide their work over the next 18 months and has been developed with input from the sector and staff. You can view the Plan on their website here.

Rapid Applied Research Translation for Health Impact Grant Scheme

Closes: 5pm Monday 27 August 2018

The South Australian Academic Health Science and Translation Centre is inviting applications for Rapid Applied Research Translation for Health Impact Grants through a funding allocation from the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF). This funding opportunity is presented in the context of the Medical Research and Innovation Strategy 2016 -2021 and Medical Research and Innovation Priorities 2016-2018, as part of the Medical Research Future Fund. You can find out more in the Terms of Reference and download an application form below. 

TOR: Rapid Applied Research Translation for Health Impact Grant Scheme

Application form: Rapid Applied Research Translation for Health Impact Grant Scheme


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Events

Equity and Access in Health Care Forum

Wednesday 29 August 2018
1.30pm – 3.00pm
HCA, Adelaide

HCA in partnership with SA Health invites consumers to attend an information session to learn about the draft Equity and Access in Health Care Policy Directive for SA Health. Participants will have an opportunity to contribute their ideas and feedback on the Policy.

You can access the draft policy here.

You can register to attend the Forum here.

If you are unable to attend the Forum you can complete an online survey here.

Planning Ahead Seminar

Thursday 13 September 2018
9.15am – 12.30om
COTA Adelaide

COTA SA is hosting a free Reframing Ageing Seminar about the financial, legal and health benefits of early planning for retirement and beyond. To register and find out more call (08) 8232 0422, 1800 182 324 (free for country callers) or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . You can view the program and find out more here.

Disability Ageing and Lifestyle Expo, My Life My Choice

Thursday 27 September 2018

10am4pm
Adelaide Showground

The annual Disability, Ageing and Lifestyle Expo will showcase practical ideas, research and initiatives under the ‘My Life, My Choice’ theme. My Life, My Choice, is about empowering individuals, couples and families to ensure that they remain at the centre of decisions related to their needs and provide information about the types of services and supports that are available to them. You can find out more here.

Motor Neurone Disease Australia Conference

Friday 31 August 2018

8.30am - 5.00pm
Adelaide

The 9th National Motor Neurone Disease (MND) Australia Conference is hosted by the MND Association of South Australia and will be held at the Grand Chancellor Hotel. The Conference will promote the sharing of expertise and understanding of MND nationally, with the aim to improve care and support for people living with MND, their carers and families. You can find out more and register here.

Food Security Onkaparinga Forum

Wednesday 12 September 2018

1.00pm – 4.30pm
Noarlunga

Healthy Cities Onkaparinga is hosting a forum with the aim to establish a Food Security Collaborative for Onkaparinga. Participants will have the opportunity to discuss and provide their input on what should be included in the design of the Food Security Collaborative. There will be guest speakers and presentations, information stalls and light refreshments will be served. You can find out more and register here.


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