‘Health literacy’ refers to how people understand information about health and health care, and how they apply that information to their lives, use it to make decisions and act on it.
Health literacy is important for:
- Consumers, because it affects their capacity to make informed decisions and take action to manage their health
- Healthcare providers, because it affects the way they manage their communication and partnerships with consumers and deliver care.
Clear and open communication between consumers and healthcare providers is vital for the delivery of effective, efficient and ethical health care. It also facilitates good clinical decision-making, protects the legal rights of consumers to be informed and involved in decision-making, and assists when supported decision-making is required.
Processes to support the workforce to communicate effectively with patients and their carers about all aspects of their care involve obtaining informed consent and determining a patient’s treatment preferences and goals of care.
When tailoring information, consider the diversity of people who use the service and, where relevant, the cultural diversity of the local community. Visual diagrams, decision aids, cue cards and interpreters may be useful when communicating with patients who have low health literacy or have difficulty understanding English.
Links to actions 1.09 and 1.10 Patient populations and social determinants of health; and 3.23 Planning and delivering comprehensive care.