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Health Literacy: an issue for life

To make good decisions about our health, we need to find, understand, appraise and apply health information.  This is the essence of good health literacy.

 

What is the issue?

Levels of health literacy in England are very low: 43% of working age adults cannot understand textual health information, rising to 61% when a numeracy element is added (1); and 43% adults are unable to calculate paracetamol dosage for a child based on age and weight (2).  Individual health literacy also varies.  If someone has just had a significant diagnosis, then their ability to comprehend information will be reduced.

As people live longer with multiple health conditions, they need to be able to make the treatment choices that are right for them, and to understand how to use self-management techniques or take medications.

 

What role for health library staff?

Working with patients and the public takes different forms within NHS library and knowledge services.  All depend upon library and knowledge services staff having the confidence to see how core skills in finding evidence and appraising sources apply to health information materials for patients and the public.  Supporting the health literacy awareness of colleagues, and identifying information resources of differing levels of complexity, can enable library and knowledge services to have an impact on the way that patient information materials are used.  This supports treatment choice and effective self-management of health conditions.  For this reason, health literacy is a priority for Knowledge for Healthcare work on patient and public information in 2018-2020

Library personnel in education and public library sectors are keen to collaborate on health literacy, as the information literacy and digital literacy skills that they promote feed into health literacy. Whereas good information literacy in education may be seen as a short-term benefit for coursework, health literacy is a life skill.

 

What next?

In 2018-19 we will be offering training on health literacy awareness and accredited “train the trainer” training for health library and knowledge services staff in England, which can be used as the basis of training for NHS staff and partner organisations, including public libraries.

In the meantime, resources are available to increase your awareness of health literacy issues, with tools that you can use.  Working with NHS England, Public Health England and the Community Health and Learning Foundation, Health Education England has developed a health literacy toolkit, including case studies and a “how to” guide https://www.hee.nhs.uk/our-work/health-literacy .

If you have ideas, questions or would like to be involved in shaping health literacy activity, contact Ruth.Carlyle@hee.nhs.uk

Ruth Carlyle

References

  • Rowlands, G. et al. A mismatch between population health literacy and the complexity of health information: an observational study. British Journal of General Practice Jun;65(635):e379-86. doi: 10.3399/bjgp15X685285. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26009533
  • Mayor, S. 2012. Nearly half adults in England don’t understand health information, study indicates. British Medical Journal 345:e8364 https://www.bmj.com/content/345/bmj.e8364

The Library and Knowledge Service for NHS Ambulance Services in England [LKS ASE] was launched in April 2018

LKS ASE is a partnership between eight English ambulance services to provide national coverage.  The new service operates in four key areas:

  1. Request an Article – complete an online form and request any article you need.
  2. Request a search – complete the online form to request a literature search.
  3. Current Awareness – sign up for monthly current awareness updates.
  4. Guides and Help – the library has written guides on topics related to searching, research and paramedic practice.

LKS ASE is working with Manchester University NHS Trust Library Services to deliver a document supply service.  Further developments are planned for the future to extend the service offering including an implementation of KnowledgeShare and a repository.

The plan for the next three years of operation is set out in the LKS ASE Strategy.   If you have any comments on the strategy please feed them back to Matt.Holland@nwas.nhs.uk .

For more information about the library:

London Ambulance Service and South East Coast Ambulance Service already have services in place and are not part of the new arrangements.

New resources for Health Information Week 2018

Health Information Week 2018 (2nd-8th July) is coming up on the horizon. Join in using this year’s hashtag #HIW2018.

There are so many ways to get involved online and/or through events and other activities.  Now is a great time to gather initial ideas on how your service might participate in this year’s campaign.

To support you, some additional resources are being developed by a project team from the 2017-2018 HEE/CILIP Leadership Programme.

Why not start with this postcard (pdf and Word versions available) to generate some ideas among your teams, regional colleagues or other partners?

Don’t forget there are many helpful tips and resources available to you – we hope to add more resources in the next few weeks – http://kfh.libraryservices.nhs.uk/patient-and-public-information/health-information-week/

We have also created a dedicated Twitter account @Healthinfoweek that you can follow for updates.

Coming soon

  • Report on learning from HIW2017 including results from a recent survey and some useful case studies
  • Marketing templates
  • Signposting to further resources

In addition, we are exploring evaluation templates and developing partnerships with other sectors to strengthen HIW as a national campaign. So, watch this space!

Please contact any of the project team members below if you have any queries

Health Information Week Project Team
Health Education England / CILIP Leadership Development Programme

Louisa Fulbrook – Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Foundation Trust Louisa.Fulbrook@rjah.nhs.uk

Steph Grey – Public Health England  Stephanie.Grey@phe.gov.uk

Linda Kalinda – Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust l.kalinda@nhs.net

Jenny Kendrick – NICE jenny.kendrick@nice.org.uk

Sarah Lewis- Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust sarah.lewis23@nhs.net

Clare Quigley – Self Help UK clare.quigley@selfhelp.org.uk