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Health Literacy

Affecting access to health services

What is Health Literacy?

“The degree to which individuals have the
capacity to obtain, process and understand
basic health information and services
needed to make appropriate health
decisions” (Beaumont et al., 2018).

What does Health Literacy

Health literacy refers to the overriding
factors, barriers and the education
important in accessing and understanding
health information.

Put simply, health literacy involves reading, writing, listening, speaking, numeracy
and critical analysis to perform health-related tasks (Australian Commission on
Safety and Quality in Health Care, 2015).

-Over 1/3 of the adult population has limited health literacy (ACSQHC, 2015).

-Only 40% of adults have adequate health literacy levels to meet demands of
everyday life (Beaumont et al., 2015).
Limited Health Literacy
Limited health literacy includes:

 Medication errors
 Increased health care costs
 Inadequate knowledge
 Inability to manage chronic health conditions

Figure 1: Why is health literacy important?

(Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care, 2015).

Low levels of health literacy can be linked to lower participation rates in
preventative health approaches such as vaccinations and cancer screening. This
occurs where there are low levels of:

 Socioeconomic Disadvantage
 Existing Language Barriers
 General Education

High levels of health literacy occurs when people have access to a greater range of
health services and use health information to enhance overall health and wellbeing
(Beaumont et al., 2018).

“Health literacy is using the information to make good

decisions based on an holistic understanding of health
services and how to best access and use these services”-
(Beaumont et al., 2018).
Health Inequalities
Health Inequalities refers to varying health statuses (illness and mortality) of
individuals and/or groups that result from social, economic and geographic
contributions (Victorian Health Promotion Foundation, 2005 as cited in Victoria
Health, 2008).
-inequal access to resources necessary for optimal health (housing, income
and healthy food) (Victorian Health, 2008).

Urban planning
Meaningful Adequate Safety and (Transport and
Education health service Healthy Eating
Employment Housing justice positive social

When considering health inequalities we must address this holistically. Eg; how low
income and unemployment impacts more broadly on health.

 For example these barriers to health access may result in social isolation
and exclusion.
 If someone believes they’re being treated unfairly, this may result in a lack
of trust toward institutions and lack of social connections (Victoria Health
Promotion Foundation, 2008 as cited in Victoria Health, 2008).

Turrell et al., 2007 state that health in middle to late adulthood

are shaped by experienced childhood socioeconomic
conditions; thus there is significant contribution of the
accumulated disadvantages obtained over an individual’s
Factor Affecting Access to Health Care Examples
Poor health Good health

Education People with poor education are more likely to be Education enhances
employed in jobs lacking security (Curtain, 2005). knowledge about health,
such as enhanced awareness
of harmful behaviours.
Approximately 40.1% of Indigenous students Increases job opportunities,
finished a Year 12 education, compared with non- increased self-esteem and
Indigenous student completion of 75.9% (Victorian self-worth (Australian
Health, 2008). Institute of Health and
Welfare, 2007).

Lifelong learning is link to

prevention of the onset of
disease such as Alzheimer’s
(Youssef & Addae, 2002).

Access to Individuals without job security demonstrate Offers financial

Employment lowest levels of self-rated health and subjective independence, self-
wellbeing (Cummins et al., 2006). Unemployment confident and control over
may result in depression, low self-esteem and health services (Stanwick,
mental health problems. Unemployment can be Ong & Karmel, 2006)
linked to increased drug and alcohol abuse
(Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2007).
Unemployment rate for Aboriginal people (12.9%)
compared with non-Indigenous people (4.4%)
(Victorian Health, 2008). In 2007, 9.5% of
Australian children aged 0–17 years live in
households without an employed parent (UNICEF

Income and Low income results in a reduction of access to High income results in
Wealth resources and medications to improve overall greater home environment,
health. Increased risk due to greater exposure to up-to-date technology and
physical hazards such as faulty home equipment greater access to resources
(Blakemore, 2007 as cited in Victorian Health, and services that
2008). Risk of premature death is higher. compliment a cost.
Access to Housing insecurity results in unaffordability, Individuals who have access
housing uninsulated housing and greater inequalities in to clean, insulated and
health (Waters, 2001). adequate housing report
greater health. This is due
Greater risk to individuals living in rented to better living conditions
accommodation (Waters, 2001). Overcrowding and greater access to health
results in decreased health and wellbeing due to services and adequate
increased disease, and greater demand of heating and cooling
bathroom and laundry facilities (Waters, 2001). (Victorian Health, 2008).

Healthy Food Almost 60,000 Australians in low-income families Nutritious food enhances
go without meals or experience food insecurities physical and mental
(Victorian Health Promotion Foundation 2007 as wellbeing.
cited in Victorian Health, 2008). Poverty and low
income results in lack of access to food leading to Known to enhance cultural
greater possibility of eating disorders and lower and social growth such as
health. Disadvantaged communities in Melbourne cooking and sharing food
have up to 2.5 times the exposure to fast food (Victorian Health Promotion
outlets (Victorian Health Promotion Foundation Foundation 2007 as cited in
2007 as cited in Victorian Health, 2008). Victorian Health, 2008).

Health, social Inadequate health care access results in Access enhances the
and conditions being left untreated resulting in serious capacity of individuals to
community health consequences. maintain optimal health and
infrastructure alleviate illness (Victorian
Patients in low socioeconomic areas are less likely Health, 2008).
to receive longer GP consultations than patients in
more advantaged areas (Victorian Health, 2008). Participation in organised
sports and community
involvement enhances
overall health and wellbeing
(Victorian Health, 2008).

Urban 9.3% of unemployed Victorians have difficulty with More efficient urban
Planning and transport when getting to the places they need, planning and transport
Access to compared with 1.6% of full-time employed access results in greater
Transport Victorians (Victorian Health, 2008). health due to enhanced
accessibility of health
In 2003, 30% of Victorians who were living with a services and information.
disability had some difficulty with public transport
access (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2004 as
cited in Victorian Health, 2008).