Midland focus on improving health literacy

24 Mar 2014 | Partners in Care

Midlands Health Network is a Hamilton-based primary health care organisation which supports general practices in the Midland region to get the best health outcomes for their patients.

The Network has a focus on supporting general practice to improve health literacy in the region.

Wendy Donaldson, Midlands Network Development Facilitator says the increased focus on health literacy began with the adoption of the Midland Health Network Strategy in 2012, and a vision of making health literacy “everyone’s business”.

Midlands Health Network defines health literacy as the ability of patients and/or their families to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services in order for them to make informed and appropriate health decisions.

“Around half of New Zealand adults have low health literacy, which results in a wide range of problems and challenges for the health system, patients, and their family/whānau,” says Wendy Donaldson.

As the Network wants to become a health literacy promoting organisation, the first phase of the health literacy project involved training and planning to ensure all staff were familiar with health literacy themselves.

“We are now moving into phase two of the project, which involves providing health literacy training and resources for clinicians and practice nurses throughout the region,” says Wendy.

According to the education and training resources developed for the Health Quality & Safety Commission by Workbase, health literacy can be improved by practicing three simple steps.

  • Find out what people know: sometimes people will have incorrect knowledge or beliefs about their health condition.
  • Build people’s health literacy to meet their needs: give information in logical steps, give information in chunks to help the patient understand, and ask questions.
  • Check you were clear: clinicians should check they were clear by getting feedback from the patient about how effective you were at communicating.

The education sessions for clinicians will include a powerpoint presentation on the importance of health literacy and what clinicians can do to support their patients. A diagram from the Commission’s Three steps to better health literacy brochure will be used to explain how to apply health literacy in a simple way.

The brochure and other resources from the Commission can be downloaded from our website here.

If anyone is interested in finding out more about the training that Midland Health Network is providing please contact Wendy Donaldson wendy.donaldson@midlandshn.health.nz.


Last updated 25/03/2014