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Health Literacy?

Health Literacy what’s all this about?

If I say “take 2 of these immediately and then one three times a day with food until finished” do you understand what I mean? If you do then you have good Health literacy if you don’t then read on....

The concept of Health Literacy is still fairly new to Kiwis. The idea began as a concept started in the United States in the mid-1970s where individuals with low health literacy were regarded as “risks.”Over the years other models of health literacy were developed which takes the view that the health sector needs to reduce the health literacy demands of its systems as well as develop the health literacy skills of individuals.

More than half (56%) of adult New Zealanders have poor health literacy skills. Poor health literacy is linked to poor health status and may also contribute to health inequalities. An improvement in a patient’s health literacy will contribute to the understanding of their medicines as well as safer use of their medicines, ultimately leading to improved health.

So what does health literacy really mean and what can we do to improve this?

Health literacy is the ability to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services to make appropriate health decisions (Kōrero Mārama, 2010).Health literacy includes how we navigate and interact with our complex health system.  Health literacy includes our expectations about health and well-being, and our understanding of health messages, medicine labels and nutrition information, as well as our ability to fill out medical forms and talk with our doctor.

Health professionals working in New Zealand now recognise this and you may notice a change in the way a doctor, nurse or pharmacist talks to you. What they are trying to do is to be clearer in what they say and also check that you understand what is said. They use 3 simple steps to achieve this

Step one – find out what people know.

Step two – build health literacy skills and knowledge.

Step three – check you were clear (and if not go back to step two).

As patients we need to be clear and honest in what we know and don’t know and we should feel confident to say this.

Here are some online resources

http://www.healthliteracy.org.nz/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_literacy

Kind regards, Peter Neal (Pharmacist)



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