Putting health literacy into action to improve the quality use of medicines

The burden of health literacy is commonly placed on consumers, however, it is also the responsibility of the healthcare sector – health professionals, service providers and health organisations to reduce the complexity of the healthcare system. The ABC of health literacy is the theme of the 2022 National Medicines Symposium (NMS) taking place today.

Health literacy is how people understand information about health and health care, and how they act on it. The fully virtual event hosted by NPS MedicineWise expands on what health literacy is, why it is important, and what can be done to improve it, especially where the need is greatest.

Professor of Public Health at the University of Sydney Prof Don Nutbeam is discussing why health literacy is so important and that poor health literacy is more widespread than we may think.

Almost half (49%) of people have difficulty locating information on a bottle of medicine about the maximum number of days a medicine can be taken. Around 80% of people don’t understand home care instructions after discharge from the Emergency Department. Half of all medicines are prescribed, dispensed or sold inappropriately, and half of all people fail to take them correctly.

Prof Nutbeam says to improve this we need to both increase the skills and confidence of consumers, while also simplifying information.

“Health literacy is such an important and wide-ranging issue, not only for our personal health and the health of those around us but for a sustainable health system,” says NPS MedicineWise CEO Katherine Burchfield.

“We know that low health literacy leads to poorer health outcomes. When thinking about how to tackle this, we need to consider the environment in which people are accessing healthcare and how to set that up in a way that supports health literacy.”

“The National Medicines Symposium brings together important organisations, individuals and decision makers in the health sector to discuss and debate key issues around health literacy.”

“Lightening talks and posters focus on real world examples around the three NMS themes of organisational health literacy, medicines literacy and supporting vulnerable communities.”

“We are also showcasing a toolkit to help put health literacy into action, with tools linked to each of these themes,” she says.

Supporting health literacy by improving communication is the focus of a workshop with Dr Julie Ayre from the Sydney Health Literacy Lab at the University of Sydney. She is explaining how the SHeLL editor, developed by the Sydney Health Literacy Lab, can be applied to create health materials that are easy to understand.

The online event – the third time the National Medicines Symposium is being hosted as a virtual event, supporting online discussion between delegates. The conversation will also continue on social media with the hashtag #NMS2022.

 

Media contact

Bernadette Withers: 0419 618 365 or [email protected]