Health Literacy

Nurse showing older woman her health information, educating, listening, discussing, informed choices and decision making technology, inhome, customisation of care, private service care, compassion, What is it?

The term Health Literacy describes what a person needs to know to make a sound health decision about themselves, a family member or on behalf of the community.  This is a vital step that empowers your ability to have control, find the right information and take responsibility for your health.

Understanding your health and your family’s health in context, together with understanding the factors that are impacting it, then knowing what to do to address these factors is all part of having good health literacy. This allows you to take responsibility for both your family and your own health. 

It is not just when we are sick. We make daily decisions for ourselves, our families and our communities that impact our health.

Being able to access, understand and apply health information is key to managing your health. Knowledge is power. 

For example, When the COVID pandemic came, many people didn’t understand what to do.  In Australia, there was an outbreak in Melbourne and it was discovered that many people couldn’t access to information they could understand.  Therefore they could not apply the health information to what they were doing. Did not wear masks, handwash or self-isolate.  For some, English language was not their first language and it was this reason that they did not watch Australian TV, listen to the radio or read the paper.  For others, (due to lack of access to school in their own country) they did not know what a virus was and others had little knowledge about why hand washing works to reduce transmission. The decisions made were the best they could do with what information they could access and understand. 

Or Jenny's choice:

When shopping for food, Jenny chooses to buy fruit instead of biscuits as she knows fruit has more nutrition than the biscuits, even though she knows she would rather eat the biscuits with a cup of tea tonight.

Or Tom's ability to manage his Chronic Disease:

After getting a diagnosis of emphysema or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, Tom was worried about getting sick.  He contacted Nurse Nav who worked with his GP to create an action plan.   This action plan described very clearly in language Tom could understand what mild, moderate and severe sickness symptoms were, what medications to take and how often, and when to call an ambulance.  He was able to have a new packet of antibiotics sitting at home in the cupboard and using his action plan, was able to start taking the antibiotics when needed without having to leave the house or call the doctor.   This gave him piece of mind and avoided a trip to hospital, and sometimes a stay because he was able to start treatment before it got too bad.  Tom was empowered and able to be in control, by having information, access and the ability to apply it.