Category Archives: Patient and Public Information TaF

Health literacy – What’s the story?

There has been a lot of talk about health literacy in the health library and knowledge community over the last couple of years.  Health Education England worked with partners to deliver awareness and train the trainer sessions across England.  Although we were not surprised at the positive response from our colleagues to this programme, we have been heartened and encouraged by the engagement within the health community and beyond.

One of the best ways to illustrate the impact of low health literacy is to share personal stories.  Participants in the training programme generously gave examples of their own issues with health literacy.  Inspired by this, we thought now might be a good time to share some stories from library and knowledge services on their own experiences of delivering health literacy awareness training and the impact this has had both on them personally and on their services.  Here are just a couple of examples of what’s been happening:

 

Sylvia Hughes, Senior Library Assistant, Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust

“Last year I helped to deliver health literacy awareness training to library staff from across the North of England.  As I read the feedback from participants, one or two comments reflected the same things that I had been thinking myself when I first heard the suggestion that NHS Libraries were well placed to support the provision of health information to the public and patient: how exactly, could I, as an NHS library assistant, do that?  How could the Library have any impact on information for patients within my Trust, for example, to front-line staff dealing with patient enquiries in the out-patient clinic or the consultant responding to a patient question in the consultation room?

I first got involved in information for patients and the public in 2015.  Our Library and Knowledge Service was looking for ways to supporting patients and carers and I was considering which topic to choose for my MSc dissertation.  The more I began to read about health inequalities, and how poor health literacy can impact negatively on everyone’s health, I began to think what an opportunity this could be for library staff to contribute to supporting the patient AND professional.  Having looked for opportunities to get involved with health literacy and supporting patient information, working with senior nurses and patient information staff, our Library produced and distributed a simple ‘Patients’ guide to health information’ which can now be found in patient areas.  I have now joined our Trust patient information panel, regularly reviewing patient information leaflets, and am hoping to feed awareness of health literacy into our own patient information protocol.  I completed my dissertation (and my MSc!) entitled ‘The informed patient and role of the Library’ in 2018.

Working alongside fellow library staff, we plan to run further health literacy awareness training in our Trusts as a means raise awareness and support staff further in producing patient health information.  But even just noticing and helping the ‘lost’ patient navigating their way around endless hospital corridors via numerous hospital signs (which may not be really helping the patient find their way around) plays a part.  We can also raise awareness of the need to produce information from the patient’s point of view.  We sometimes take our own knowledge and skills for granted when sharing information in our own Libraries (for instance, using the unhelpful term ‘health literacy!’).

I think that we are very well placed to meet the challenge to contribute, to support and help to fill that health information knowledge gap. We are experts in finding, appraising, and delivering information for our readers.  With a little bit of self-reflection, we are also able to imagine the emotion we all feel when faced with an overwhelming whole ‘universe’ of health information, or as one patient told me ‘gobbledygook!’

 

Rachel Steele, Librarian, Tees Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust

“I very much enjoyed delivering health literacy training to a group of library and information services staff members in January 2020 and I hope to deliver more training in the future.  I had participated in previous ‘train the trainer’ sessions organised by the Community Health and Learning Foundation and Health Education England.  These sessions were absolutely invaluable in imparting the knowledge and skills I required to act as a trainer in this area.  The framework conceptualised health literacy as a two-sided coin – the personal and the societal.  Myself and my co-trainers used this framework in our training and it seemed to work well.

Exercises were a key part of the training I delivered.  We asked participants to undertake exercises to practise the techniques of ‘teach back’ and ‘chunk and check’ and we also used exercises originally devised by the Community Health and Learning Foundation designed to give participants an appreciation of how it feels to have low health literacy and not to understand information which is being imparted.  I won’t say too much as to the nature of the exercise (as this may ‘spoil’ the element of surprise in subsequent training!) but acting as trainer in this exercise made me feel as though I was being unkind to participants which made me feel a bit uncomfortable.  It is, however, important that people do gain an appreciation of what it is like to live with low health literacy to fully understand the themes raised and we tried to deal with participants feelings in the ‘de-brief’ following the exercise.  By having a de-brief, they were able to understand why the trainers had behaved as they did and that no malign motives were intended on our part!

I intend to deliver health literacy training in conjunction with others in my Trust to groups in future, in particular to junior doctors as part of regular slots on postgraduate medical education programmes.  Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems increasingly likely that future training will be delivered using virtual training approaches.  I believe these can work well, especially if software is used to share trainers’ screens so that exercises can be displayed for participants to work on.

I would very much encourage others to participate in health literacy training themselves and look for opportunities to deliver health literacy training in their Trusts.  Health literacy is a very important issue (particularly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic) and it is therefore vital to raise awareness of it in our various local contexts.”

 

Now more than ever, health literacy is vitally important and impacts both on the individual and on the whole of society.  If these stories have inspired you to get involved and you would like some more information, training or advice, contact Ruth, Sue, Holly, Catherine or Joanne or email KFH.england@hee.nhs.uk

Joanne Naughton
HEE LKS Development Manager

Health Information Week: a focus for 2020 needs

We all need information that we can trust, particularly in this time of Coronavirus. We also need to look after our well-being, whether our mental health or our physical health.

In response to these needs, the Health Information Week 2020 project team has decided to refocus the themes of the week to:

  • finding information you can trust;
  • and well-being.

Anticipating that most activity during Health Information Week is likely to be online, we will have a vibrant new web presence and a new logo.

We will signpost to a wide range of resources produced by partners, including those produced by members of the Patient Information Forum and listed by the Reading Agency.

If you have already set up activities using the previously suggested daily themes, do schedule these as appropriate, but the national focus is shifting in response to the national need.

More will follow with the refreshed online look for 2020.

Health Information Week 2020 project group healthinfoweek@gmail.com

Looking for inspiration for Health Information Week 2020 (#HIW2020)?

Health Information Week is a national, multi-sector campaign to promote high quality information for patients and the public. High quality health information can have a huge impact on people’s ability to stay healthy and manage illnesses effectively, giving them a better quality of life. This year, #HIW2020 runs from Monday 6th to Sunday 12th July.

Are you interested in being involved in #HIW2020 but not sure where to start? Or maybe you’ve been involved for a number of years and you’re looking for something different to do this year? Perhaps you don’t feel you have the resources to do much? Alternatively maybe you’d like to do make #HIW2020 a really significant part of your outreach work this year? The good news is that you can spend as much or as little time as you have on #HIW2020, from running a week long programme of events to simply retweeting posts from @HealthInfoWeek.

The Ideas Bank is a great place to start. It includes all the ideas from previous years, and we’ve recently updated it to include new ideas from #HIW2019 activities run by different teams from across the country. Maybe a walkabout to key teams would be more effective than a display? Maybe you can ask a health professional to present at a public library or other public venue?

The Ideas Bank includes:

  • Tips for making contact with teams in your local area who may be interested in working with you, both inside and outside your organisation
  • Ideas for teams with limited time and resources
  • Fun ideas to draw a crowd
  • And more!

And if you have other ideas, please let us know – other people may find them really useful too. Email us on Healthinfoweek@gmail.com or Tweet us on @HealthInfoWeek

Your organisation’s Covid-19 response may affect the planning you can do at this stage. Dependent on how things develop, it may also affect what is possible during #HIW2020 itself. Follow national guidance, and also your local guidance. Some of the things in the Ideas Bank would not be appropriate during current precautions – they are included in hope that by Monday 6th July, they will once again be safe. Other things, such as social media use, can continue as usual during Covid-19.

Lindsay Snell on behalf of the HIW team