WellSouth tackles health literacy

23 May 2018 | Primary Care

Long term conditions such as diabetes, heart failure and chronic obstructive respiratory disease affect people’s quality of life, limit daily activities and cause long-term disability. There are marked health inequalities with high risk population groups such as Māori, Pacific and South Asian having a disproportionate burden of long term conditions. Furthermore, many face a double whammy and have low health literacy which has been defined as the ability to read, comprehend and take action on their own health information.

Four years ago, Wellsouth Primary Health Network, covering the southern district, set up a long-term conditions (LTC) team. From a 'blank canvas' they have developed a new LTC model of care for the network and heath care professional training focusing on long term conditions, health literacy, patient self-management and goal setting. The model of care includes a comprehensive health assessment, leading on to individual care planning.

Three steps bookletA resource that they have used in every education session is the Health Quality & Safety Commission’s Three steps to better health literacy – a guide for health professionals. WellSouth health professionals have implemented the simple steps, tips and skills from the booklet, into their daily work.

Marrylynn Donaldson, Wellsouth’s LTC Community nurse says they find it does not take any longer to do ‘it is just a different way of helping patients to better understand their condition or conditions.’ And as the network gained more confidence in the tools, including ‘teach-back’, they found they were better able to help their patients self-manage their long term care needs.

Two people look at a 3D model of a high-tech teaching tool

WellSouth long term conditions community nurse Marryllyn Donaldson (left and Otago Polytechnic product design lecturer Andrew Wallace look over a high-tech 3D-printed model of a simple teaching aid.

But the WellSouth LTC team have not stopped there. They also have developed visual aids and 3D printed health education models.

‘We always encourage anyone to come up with a new idea,’ says Marrylynn.

‘From a simple thought, rough design and prototype, new models are developed.’

The concept is that each model illustrates one key health education message in a dynamic, visual way. For example, one model shows how insulin works as a ‘key’ to allow glucose to move from the blood into a cell.

Another model currently in development helps to show the importance of daily weighing in heart failure patients.

Quality improvement in primary care can come in many forms.

WellSouth has found that prototyping and testing with these simple health literacy tools with patients has led to huge leaps in patient understanding of their conditions and allows them to better self-manage.

Last updated 14/06/2018