Effective, timely and equitable healthcare for all Australians: the role of Health Literacy

Presentation to the Commonwealth Department of Health, Population Health Seminar Series


The Australian government is making a major investment in health through collecting data on health literacy through the ABS National Health Survey. These data have the potential to enhance the Health of Australians through impacting on services and systems related to healthcare quality, health promotion, health security and health equity across sectors. Health literacy is not only about an individual’s skills, but about how we provide services to the community and the conversations Australians have about health on a daily basis. Health literacy is the personal characteristics and social resources needed for individuals and communities to access, understand, retrieve, appraise and use information and services to make decisions about health. Health literacy includes the capacity to communicate, assert and enact these decisions. Health literacy responsiveness is the provision of services, programs and information in ways that promote equitable access and engagement, that meet the diverse health literacy needs and preferences of all people, and that support individuals and communities to participate in decisions regarding their health and wellbeing. Health literacy responsiveness is achieved through supportive culture and leadership, supportive systems, policies and practices, and an effective workforce. Australia is the first country to establish a World Health Organisation (WHO) Collaboration Centre for Health Literacy, located at the Health Systems Improvement Unit at Deakin University, Melbourne. This presentation will outline: - Australia’s new approaches to robust measurement of health literacy that are now used globally - How health literacy measurement can be used to not only find the ‘gaps’ (and who is falling through them) but guide how gaps can be filled - The role of health literacy in improving patient-centred care, empowering consumers, communities and healthcare professionals, and driving service quality - The role of digital health literacy (or e-health literacy) in informing product design, digital service implementation success (or to avoid implementation failure), and in the prevention of creating a “digital divide”. - The role of health literacy in health security, including building community capacity for choosing healthcare and services wisely, vaccination and anti-microbial resistance. - How the new Ophelia (OPtimise HEalth LIteracy and Access) process can be used to co-design service improvements, from individual health services to whole cities. The presentation will conclude with discussions about how health literacy can be used to strengthen primary care, hospital care, community health and be used to support Australia’s commitments to meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

To access the video presentation, click here

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