Australian Health Review Australian Health Review Society
Journal of the Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association
RESEARCH ARTICLE (Open Access)

How could health information be improved? Recommended actions from the Victorian Consultation on Health Literacy

Sophie J. Hill A C and Tanya A. Sofra B
+ Author Affliations
- Author Affliations

A Centre for Health Communication and Participation, School of Psychology and Public Health, College of Science, Health and Engineering, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Vic. 3086, Australia.

B HealthWest Partnership, HealthWest, 1/37 Albert Street, Footscray, Vic. 3011, Australia. Email: tanya.sofra@healthwest.org.au

C Corresponding author. Email: sophie.hill@latrobe.edu.au

Australian Health Review - https://doi.org/10.1071/AH16106
Submitted: 11 May 2016  Accepted: 21 December 2016   Published online: 7 March 2017

Abstract

Objective Health literacy is on the policy agenda. Accessible, high-quality health information is a major component of health literacy. Health information materials include print, electronic or other media-based information enabling people to understand health and make health-related decisions. The aim of the present study was to present the findings and recommended actions as they relate to health information of the Victorian Consultation on Health Literacy.

Methods Notes and submissions from the 2014 Victorian Consultation workshops and submissions were analysed thematically and a report prepared with input from an advisory committee.

Results Health information needs to improve and recommendations are grouped into two overarching themes. First, the quality of information needs to be increased and this can be done by developing a principle-based framework to inform updating guidance for information production, formulating standards to raise quality and improving the systems for delivering information to people. Second, there needs to be a focus on users of health information. Recommendation actions were for information that promoted active participation in health encounters, resources to encourage critical users of health information and increased availability of information tailored to population diversity.

Conclusion A framework to improve health information would underpin the efforts to meet literacy needs in a more consistent way, improving standards and ultimately increasing the participation by consumers and carers in health decision making and self-management.

What is known about the topic? Health information is a critical component of the concept of health literacy. Poorer health literacy is associated with poorer health outcomes across a range of measures. Improving access to and the use of quality sources of health information is an important strategy for meeting the health literacy needs of the population. In recent years, health services and governments have taken a critical interest in improving health literacy.

What does this paper add? This article presents the findings of the Victorian Consultation on Health Literacy as they relate to needs, priorities and potential actions for improving health information. In the context of the National Statement for Health Literacy, health information should be a priority, given its centrality to the public’s management of its own health and effective, standards-based, patient-centred clinical care. A framework to improve health information would underpin the efforts of government, services and consumer organisations to meet literacy needs in a more consistent way, improving standards and ultimately increasing the participation by consumers and carers in health decision making and self-management.

What are the implications for practitioners? The development and provision of health information materials needs to be systematised and supported by infrastructure, requiring leadership, cultural change, standards and skills development.


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