Wednesday, 11 September 2013

‘Ophelia Victoria’ hopes education will save lives

literacy 125Nearly six in every ten Australians aren’t making use of the health system properly, simply because they don’t understand how.

The 2006 Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey, released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, showed that 59% of Australians have poor health literacy. Seven years later, Australians’ scant knowledge of medical practices is still a major issue, the Medical Journal of Australia reports.

Research has shown that people with low levels of health literacy – people with poor health knowledge, poor self-care, and who are unlikely to participate in preventative health activities – have higher rates of chronic disease, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

That is why Monash and Deakin universities are working with the Victorian Department of Health on OPtimising Health LIterAcy (Ophelia) Victoria, a program aimed at improving general understanding of health, and how to effectively use the health care system.

Dr. Rachelle Buchbinder, director of Clinical Epidemiology at Monash (Cabrini), is one of the project’s leaders. The issue of low health literacy was brought to her attention by a patient who couldn’t read, inspiring her to get involved in making the health care system as user-friendly as possible.

“I can’t teach them to read and write, but I can make sure they’ve got a GP who understands and I can make sure that they’re able to understand what they need to do for their disease,” she says.

Ophelia Victoria works with health professionals and patients at eight Victorian sites to identify the best interventions for improving health understanding.

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