Participants find health literacy conference inspirational and informative

28 May 2012 | Partners in Care

New Zealand’s first health literacy conference was held in Auckland earlier this month. The conference, organised by Workbase, looked at the challenges faced by people with low levels of literacy.  The conference explored how awareness of and changing the way we communicate meant everyone can understand health care information and make informed choices.

The conference featured health literacy pioneer Dr Rima Rudd, from the Harvard School of Public Health. Dr Peter Foley from the Health Quality & Safety Commission also spoke about the Commission’s health literacy initiatives.

The Commission sponsored 21 people to attend the event. The following feedback has been received:

Shereena Johnston from Home Support Services in Otago took this message back to her organisation, 'When passing on information to our clients/patients/residents, keep things simple, ensure they understand and if they do not at first, find ways to ensure they do.'

She believes that by knocking down health literacy barriers ‘we can ensure our clients are enabled to make a choice, that they are enabled to have the power and that they are enabled to have independence.’

Neelu Memon from the Canterbury DHB Consumer Council Youth Representative says, ‘For a long time, health providers have made the assumption that the understanding of health literature is homogeneous in the population.  However it has been realised that this is not true and that people’s literacy skills differ.  This impacts their understanding of what they read, or get told by health providers and affects the decisions they make about their health.’

She says, ‘The most important message that I can take home is the need for consumers to be honest and ask questions if they do not understand. Because health literacy is a partnership and communication in this field is so important to ensure that the best decisions are made.’

Neelu works with disabled people and feels that often compliance is given without full understanding, because the explanations are so complex.  This exacerbates the lack of control that disabled people already feel in their lives.  For her it is paramount to communicate to her networks that disabled people should ask questions if health literature is not explained in an understandable way and they should not consent until they are very clear.

Cathy Buntting from Sands was pleased that the conference highlighted one of their strengths   ̶  that their resources are written by bereaved parents. However, it also reminded her that that there are many demographic groups who do not tend to make use of other support mechanisms offered by Sands. She says, ‘As a result of this provocation I am keen to investigate ways in which we might be more deliberately culturally inclusive.’

Last updated 28/05/2012