Nearly 60 per cent of Australians have limited ability to understand and use health information.
‘Health literacy’ refers to people’s ability to access, understand and use health information, and navigate the health system. The term is used for individuals and communities.
Our health system’s infrastructure, policies, processes, materials, people and relationships are among the environmental factors that have a significant impact on health literacy.
Health literacy is also determined by individual factors such as education, age, socio-economic status, and fluency in English.
Why is health literacy important?
Health literacy is one of six regional health priorities identified in our population health needs assessment. Nearly 60 per cent of Australians have limited ability to understand and use health information.
Poor understanding of health information has been associated with:
- increased hospital use
- premature mortality among the elderly
- poorer ability to take medications appropriately
- lower rates of preventative health activities, such as flu vaccination and cancer screening
- increased risk of adverse health events
- increased health care costs, for the individual and the health care system
- less active self-management.
Read more about the effects of poor health literacy on health outcomes in our document Communicating with patients: improving health literacy and outcomes.
To improve patient outcomes, we support primary care in our region to be more accessible and equitable.
We do this by addressing the environments in which people access health care, and through the following activities:
- small group learning for practice managers
- health literacy initiatives in refugee and asylum-seeker health
- health literacy awareness videos for primary care workers
- quality improvement grants focusing on health literacy initiatives.