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 Transforming Health Consumer and Community Engagement Committee (THCCEC) Activities Report is now available. HCA would like to thank all the consumers and community members who volunteered their time and provided their wisdom to the Committee, which had its final meeting in September 2017. The report summarises the activities of the committee and the experiences of the consumer and community members as well as those of SA Health representatives who attended the meetings. Recommendations regarding future engagement in health strategy and policy are also included. You can view the report below. 

TH CCEC Activities Report

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Consumer experience of SA Health funded services report

HCA hosted a forum on consumer experience of SA Health funded services on Wednesday 29 November 2017. The forum objective was for participants to establish an approach across SA Health that ensures community-based services funded through SA Health have a consumer-centred care focus. The report outlining the main themes to emerge from the forum is now available for download below.

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Directory of advocacy / complaints services

HCA is pleased to publish this Directory of advocacy / complaints services. It provides a summary of advocacy / complaints services that can assist individuals and families who wish to provide feedback or make a complaint about health, aged care or disability services. The role of each service and the degree of individual advocacy it provides is summarised, and contact details are listed. You can access the directory here.

 


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Events

Netfest 2018

Friday 16 February 2018

Netfest is South Australia's largest professional development and networking event for non-government youth sector workers. The day-long event brings together over a hundred dedicated youth sector workers, stakeholders and supporters from across the state to discuss ideas, projects and inspire best practice. Netfest includes both formal and informal networking, a keynote presentation, professional development session and an open forum. You can find out more and register here.

Introduction to Consumer Advocacy Training

Are you thinking about becoming a consumer advocate or would you like to refresh your knowledge?

Our Introduction to Consumer Advocacy Training session will give you information on the role, challenges and benefits of being a consumer advocate.

The sessions are interactive and based on adult-learning principles. Participants receive reference materials and a certificate of attendance.

For more information see attached flyer

The upcoming training date is:

  • Monday 5 February 2018
  • Wednesday 11 April 2018
  • Friday 22 June 2018
  • Tuesday 18 September 2018
  • Wednesday 14 November 2018

The training is held at the HCA offices at Level 1/12 Pirie Street Adelaide. You can register to attend online here. 

Consumer Advocacy Training Flyer


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