Health literacy – a public health concern? #physiotalk 29th May 2017

As physiotherapists we provide information all the time; with today’s emphasis on self management ensuring that this information is understandable is vital for effective patient outcomes. This #physiotalk on Monday 29th May at 8pm BST will focus on Health literacy. So – what is health literacy?  NHS Education Scotland says “Health literacy is about people having enough knowledge, understanding, skills and confidence to use health information, to be active partners in their care, and to navigate health and social care systems. Health Literacy is being increasingly recognised as a significant public health concern around the world.”  Improving and supporting health literacy can result in:

  • Improved health and health outcomes for patients
  • Better patient and professional relationships
  • Improved understanding of medication information, instruction and adherence
  • Reduced risk of serious health problems resulting from misunderstanding and communication
  • Reduced re-admissions and repeat appointments
  • Reduced health inequalities

We have all heard that people remember and understand less than half of the information that we discuss with them; providing clear information that people understand and can act on is a priority. But many of us haven’t thought sufficiently about how to do this or ensured that the information we provide is clear and accessible for all to read. Levels of functional health literacy are low in England. Health information in current circulation is written at too complex a level for 43% of working age adults (16-65 years); this figure rises to 61% if the health information includes numeracy.

There are a range of characteristics that can impact on a person’s health literacy, these can include education, ethnic background, language, age, illness and financial and social resources. But peoples levels of health literacy can never be assumed. Everyone’s health literacy can be affected at any time, for example, when receiving new or distressing information.

Do we follow the five approaches?

Assume nothing and always offer support to people, for example when filling in forms, this is called taking universal precautions.

Teach back – check that you have explained everything in a way that has been understood, it is not the patients responsibility to understand, it is your responsibility to check that you have been understood.

Use simple language – use language that is easy for the person in front of you to understand and avoid jargon and medical terminology.

Use simple pictures – draw or show pictures to help convey a complex concept

Chunk and check – break down the information that you need to discuss with someone into smaller chunks then check for understanding as you go.

 

Questions to consider before the chat:

What is your understanding of health literacy?

How do you ensure the information you give is understandable?

What techniques do you use when providing information verbally?

What are the consequences of not providing clear information?

How can issues with health literacy affect self management?

 

Resources

The Health Literacy Place

Health Literacy Website from Society for Academic Primary Care

Blog on Health Literacy

 

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