Health Literacy

What is Health Literacy?

Health literacy has two elements.

Environmental Health Literacy:

  • How health professionals communicate.
  • How easy health systems are for people to use.
  • How easy it is for people to understand and act on health information and services.

Individual health literacy:

  • People’s ability to access, understand and act on health information.

Why is Health Literacy important?

Low health literacy can mean people are at greater risk of hospitalisation and emergency care. Low health literacy is also linked to lower use of preventive health care, like cancer screening and vaccination.

There are many groups in Northern NSW who are likely to have limited health literacy. These include:

  • elderly people,
  • people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds,
  • people who have not finished high school,
  • and people with low income.

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We can improve the quality and safety of health care in Northern NSW by taking action on health literacy.

What can I do about health literacy?

  • Use plain language in all health communication. This guide can help: http://www.plainlanguage.gov/populartopics/health_literacy/Thesaurus_V-10.doc
  • Complete online Teach-Back training to ensure you explain information clearly to your patients. Visit this link for free online training and resources: http://www.teachbacktraining.org/
  • Encourage your patients to ask you questions.
  • Always offer support to patients to complete forms.
  • Become a Health Literacy Champion – contact taya.prescott@ncahs.health.nsw.gov.au to find out more.

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Visit the Health Literacy Website

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