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

Conflict of Interest Workshop

Last Thursday HCA hosted researchers Dr Ray Moynihan and Professor Lisa Bero from Bond University and Sydney University for a consumer workshop. The workshop was one in a series of national workshops with consumers about the issue of financial conflicts of interests with a focus on relationships with drug companies. The workshop covered the financial relationships between research funders and clinicians or researchers and the impact on outcomes. The group also discussed why conflict of interests matter and how these conflicts can become risks to studies and how to be more transparent with this information. HCA was pleased to host such a dynamic and engaging workshop.

HCA will share the findings of this study when it becomes available.

Reminder: Christmas Closure

HCA will close for the Christmas period, Monday 24 December 2018 and reopening on Monday 7 January 2019. Next week's eNews will be our last for 2018 and will be a short wrap up of the year.

The first edition of our 2019 eNews will be published on Wednesday 23 January 2019.

There is change ahead for the HCA team in 2019, and we take this opportunity to thank our supporters and members for your continued support throughout 2018.

Transvaginal Mesh Update - New clinic opens!

SA Health has established the SA Health Pelvic Mesh Clinic at Royal Adelaide Hospital, a specialist clinic for women experiencing complications from pelvic mesh. The clinic aims to provide comprehensive multidisciplinary health care for all South Australian women experiencing major complications related to pelvic mesh implants. The clinic brings together experts from various health backgrounds and disciplines to work together as a team to review each patient’s individual case. A GP referral is required to access the clinic. Information for consumers and GPs is available here.

The Pelvic Mesh Consumer Support Line: 1800 66 MESH (1800 666 374) remains in operation for consumers requiring information about transvaginal mesh, operating between 9am and 4pm Monday to Friday (excluding public holidays).

ACSQHC - Partnering with Consumers Third Australian Atlas of Healthcare Variation

The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care released the Third Australian Atlas of Healthcare Variation. The goals of the Atlas series are to map variation in health care across Australia, promote investigation to identify any unwarranted variation and recommend actions to reduce unwarranted variation.

The Commission released the first Atlas in November 2015. This was followed by the release of the second Atlas covering different topics in June 2017. The third Atlas was launched by the Hon Greg Hunt MP on 11 December 2018.

You can view the report here.

Head to Health - Finding Mental Health Resources

Head to Health is an online portal that helps Australians find appropriate mental health resources. The website has compiled resources from national mental health services such as beyond blue and the black dog insitute as well as universities across Australia into one space to make it easier for Australians to find the right information. You can search for specific resources to suit you, for example if you search for bipolar, several fact sheets and websites specific to bipolar will show with information on how to access support. There is also information for loved ones and carers, with accessible information and steps on how to effectively support someone experiencing mental health challenges.

You can visit the site here.


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Latest eNews

Events

15th National Rural Health Conference

24 - 27 March 2019
Hobart Tasmania

Everything you need to refresh your energy and passion for improving the health of people in rural and remote Australia is there; including:

  • 4 days of inspiring presentations and events
  • 5 pre-conference events
  • 30 keynote speakers
  • 212 presenters in 45 concurrent sessions
  • 40 poster presentations
  • a stimulting arts and health program
  • 75 exhibitors
  • and a gala dinner!

Register here before 31 December 2018 to take advantage of the discounted Earlybird registration rate.


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