Australian Health Review Australian Health Review Society
Journal of the Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Building health literacy responsiveness in Melbourne’s west: a systems approach

Mindy L. Allott A D , Tanya Sofra A , Gail O’Donnell A , Jeremy L. Hearne B and Lucio Naccarella C
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A HealthWest Partnership, Level 1, 37 Albert Street, Footscray, Vic. 3011, Australia. Email: tanya.sofra@healthwest.org.au; gail.odonnell@healthwest.org.au

B cohealth, 90 Maribyrnong Street, Footscray, Vic. 3011, Australia. Email: jeremy.hearne@cohealth.org.au

C Centre for Health Policy, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, The University of Melbourne, Level 4, 207 Bouverie Street, Carlton, Vic. 3053, Australia. Email: l.naccarella@unimelb.edu.au

D Corresponding author. Email: mindy.allott@healthwest.org.au

Australian Health Review - https://doi.org/10.1071/AH17059
Submitted: 27 February 2017  Accepted: 19 September 2017   Published online: 24 October 2017

Abstract

With high health inequities among some population groups, health professionals and organisations are increasingly taking action on health literacy. This case study demonstrates how a systems approach to health literacy responsiveness created change across a region. From 2013 to 2017 the Health Literacy Development Project incorporating a training course and community of practice (the Project) targeted the health and community services system in Melbourne’s west. The Project created a ripple effect that built health literacy responsiveness at the individual and organisational level. This contributed to increased use of health literacy practices and led to systems change across the region. Creating change within the health and community services system is extremely challenging. This case study provides some evidence that a systems approach can support change in the health literacy responsiveness of a regional health and community services system over a 4-year timeframe.

What is known about the topic? Health professionals and organisations are increasingly looking to use systems approaches to take action on health literacy. Health literacy responsiveness is an emerging field with limited peer-reviewed studies available.

What does this paper add? This case study offers insights into how a systems approach to health literacy responsiveness can support change within a regional health and community services system.

What are the implications for practitioners? A systems approach is a viable and realistic approach for public health practitioners seeking to improve health literacy responsiveness within a region by building workforce capability and embedding health literacy practices within organisations.


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