Health Literacy NZ was set up at the end of 2015, with our team of people coming from Workbase Education Trust (which closed at the end of 2015). Our team's experience has come from creating innovative health literacy products and services for organisations across the health sector while at Workbase. Here are some examples of our work.
Self management support toolkit
As part of the Self management support toolkit we developed with Health Navigator for the Ministry of Health, Susan prepared this video which describes the equity issues in health care and how these might be addressed, using gout as an example.https://www.healthnavigator.or...
Gout is an interesting case because it is widely misunderstood and misrepresented in health care and the community, meaning people do not get effective preventative treatment. For instance, gout is perceived to be a condition caused by diet and therefore self-inflicted, when in fact for Maori and Pacific people (who are disproportionately affected by gout), it is a genetic condition which causes them to store high levels of uric acid no matter what they eat. While more likely to suffer from gout, Maori and Pacific people are less likely to be prescribed medicine which reduces uric acid levels, preventing gout attacks and long-term joint damage. Building an accurate understanding of gout and managing this long-term condition effectively are issues of equity in health care.
Here is a recent article we wrote for the New Zealand Medical Association, describing how health literacy needs to be seen as an ever-changing state created by the health challenges we face and the complexity of the health system, rather than as a patient trait. The phrase “people with low health literacy” only tells one side of the story, published in the February 2020 edition of the NZMJ Digest
International Handbook of Health Literacy 2019
We were honoured to be asked to contribute a chapter about the history of health literacy in New Zealand to the International Handbook of Health Literacy - Research, Practice and Policy across the Life-Span edited by Orkan Okan, Ullrich Bauer, Diane Levin-Zamir, Paulo Pinheiro and Kristine Sørensen (2019). Here is our chapter, Health literacy in New Zealand: A tale of serendipity and indigenous health, as well as the link to the handbook. https://policy.bristoluniversitypress.co.uk/international-handbook-of-health-literacy
Award from the Institute for Healthcare Advancement
The Institute for Healthcare Advancement is a not for profit organisation based in California, USA which has led health literacy efforts on the West Coast.
Susan was presented with her award by Dr Rima Rudd form the School of Public Health, Harvard. Dr Rudd visited New Zealand in 2012 to present at the health literacy conference From Discussion to Action and provide guest lectures on health literacy for a number of District Health Boards.
Rheumatic fever prevention and treatment
In 2015 we provided training for Healthy Homes Providers on how to use the Key tips for a warmer, drier home toolkit with families.The workshops were designed to train a trainer in each provider who in turn would train their colleagues to use the toolkit and take a health literacy approach to working with families.
In 2014 we worked on antibiotic adherence as research found that adherence was poor with two thirds of children with strep throat not completing the ten day course of antibiotics prescribed, leading to further infections.
Families told us they knew that sore throats had the potential to cause rheumatic fever and were seeking diagnosis and treatment for children's strep throats as soon as possible. Most families had been told to administer antibiotics for ten days or until finished. However, families had not been told why it was important to finish the ten day course of antibiotics, or how antibiotics work over time to treat bacterial infections like strep throat. This made it more likely that antibiotics might be missed once a child feels well.
As a result, we developed explanations and a poster for health professionals to use to explain how antibiotics work over ten days to treat a strep throat. We also provided professional development for school nurses, public health nurses, community health workers and pharmacists about taking a health literacy approach in discussions with children and families. Once families understood how antibiotics work over time, they were more likely to make sure children finished antibiotics – even when they no longer had symptoms of a sore throat.
The poster is available here and on the Ministry's website at http://rheumaticfever.health.govt.nz/sore-throats/treatment and can be used with parents, caregivers and children. The professional development provided was based on the Three Steps to Better Health Literacy Guide developed originally for community pharmacists.
Health literacy review - a guide
The Guide describes the characteristics of a health literate organisation and uses a system-wide approach to review health services, taking into account:
- strategic direction and leadership support
- service and process design
- communication mechanisms
- workforce capability
- access to support and services,
- the experiences of consumers and families.
To develop the Guide we worked with three District Health Boards to trial and amend the health literacy review process in different contexts. We produced supporting material, such as the videos and observation tools, which accompany the Guide and can be found on the Ministry's website. Each review looked at how services and care were planned, structured and delivered as well as how consumers, whānau and families experienced these services.
More information on the Guide is available at
Kidney donors and recipients
Health literacy training for community pharmacists
We developed and delivered a training programme and supporting resources to enable pharmacy staff to build health literacy with consumers as part of everyday interactions, particularly when helping consumers understand their medicines and how to use them safely. Two community pharmacies were selected as trial sites to participate in the project. The approach used was to train a lead pharmacist in each pharmacy who then provided health literacy training and resources to their staff. Following their training, pharmacists and other staff had a few weeks to practice some of the strategies for building health literacy with consumers and then we provided follow-up coaching sessions on-site to help reinforce good practice. The project ran for three months from mid-March until mid-June 2013. Participating pharmacies continue to implement the training and work on health literacy using the project resources. The project resources we developed:
- Health literacy information booklet
- Health literacy information leaflet
- Three steps to health literacy
- Three steps to health literacy - poster
- 10 questions about health literacy
- 10 answers about health literacy
- 10 more questions about health literacy
- 10 more answers about health literacy
The project was evaluated by Malatest International. The evaluation report includes recommendations that all community pharmacists be offered health literacy training to ensure that consumers understand why they are being given medicines, how to take them, and their risks and benefits. The report is available at http://www.hqsc.govt.nz/assets/Consumer-Engagement...
Gout prevention and early detection
We carried out research for the Ministry of Health to:
- identify how health literacy is a barrier and/or a facilitator in the prevention and early detection of gout
- highlight any interventions or approaches that may be effective in strengthening health literacy for Māori at risk of developing gout or who are living with the condition
- demonstrate ways to increase health literacy in order to improve outcomes associated with gout.
Health organisations and health professionals have a key role in building the health literacy of whānau about the prevention and early detection of gout.
Resources for both patients, whānau and health professionals were created as part of the project and can be found under the Resources tab.
Health literacy and the prevention and management of skin infections
- identify health literacy barriers and facilitators in the prevention and management of skin infections
- highlight interventions that may be effective in strengthening health literacy for better prevention and management of skin infections
- demonstrate ways to increase health literacy in order to improve outcomes in skin infections.
All the resources should be printed in colour.