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?
Tips for making contact with teams in your local
area who may be interested in working with you, both inside and outside your
Ideas for teams with limited time and resources
Fun ideas to draw a crowd
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.
People of all ages, backgrounds, and education levels need health information, but often find it difficult to find and understand. Low literacy levels, in terms of reading, and being able to find, understand, and apply information, are a barrier to successful patient participation, and this is problematic, given the increasing recognition about the importance of engaging patients in the treatment decision-making process.
Health literacy and health information literacy are phrases that are becoming more widely used, sometimes interchangeably. However, there is a difference, and this post hopes to clarify the meaning of each.
Health literacy is the ability to understand instructions provided by health professionals. “In England, 42% of working-age adults are unable to understand and make use of everyday health information, rising to 61% when numeracy skills are also required for comprehension” (1), and “around one in five adults cannot read or understand simple instructions or labels such as those found on medicine bottles” (2, 3). The inability to read can result in patients taking medicines at the wrong times, not following dosages correctly, or not understanding instructions properly (4). For example, if the label on the prescription says “Take three tablets daily”, does this mean take three tablets at the same time or take one tablet three times a day? The quote in the box below, comes from a Facebook post written by a surgeon, and perfectly illustrates the consequences of misunderstanding medical instructions.
Health information literacy
Health information literacy, although often referred to as health literacy, has a more in-depth scope. It is not only about access to the Internet and online health information, but also about having the skills required by people to effectively recognise:
· what they need to know about their condition and treatment options,
· how to find that information, to fill those knowledge gaps,
· how to appraise the information to ensure it is good quality, and relevant to their personal context, and then
· how to use the information with their health professionals so that they can make an informed decision that suits their needs (5, 6).
Poor health information literacy can result in poorer health outcomes, unhealthy lifestyles, increased incidence of chronic conditions and mortality, greater use of emergency services, and increased hospital stays (1, 7-13).
Role of librarians
Maimonides, a Spanish philosopher said “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” This quote reflects the importance of health information literacy, because if you find the information for the patient, their query will be satisfied, but if you teach them to search and appraise, they will be able to make informed decisions throughout their care pathways.
Health information literacy is an area where librarians, from all sectors, whether medical, public or academic, are in a strong position to support. They already have the resources, skills, and processes in place (14). Librarians can signpost people to the best sources, and teach them to search, retrieve, and appraise what they find (15). Medical librarians have the skills associated with evidence-based practice, as it is embedded in their roles, their primary function being teaching health professionals how to find and appraise the evidence. They also have access to the
relevant information sources, while public and school librarians are a trusted source within their communities, and understand the local context. Working in partnership would improve access to good quality health information at a location accessible to local people, who most likely would not have access to medical libraries.
People benefit from having access to good quality health information because it enables them to make informed decisions and follow their treatment regimens more effectively and safely (16-18). Informed patients are more likely to comply with the treatment regime, resulting in improved health, and reduced length of stay, and hospital admissions. Since the average doctor’s visit in England lasts 8-10 minutes (19), patients need to be ready to ask the right questions. Helping patients to self-manage by improving their health information literacy skills will benefit both the patient and the health system (1, 20, 21). By improving access to clear, current, accurate, and understandable consumer health information, health inequalities can be reduced and patients will feel more empowered (1, 22).
Creating health information literacy support programmes and resources is a new area for medical, public, and school libraries to work and lead on together. Library communities would benefit, in terms of professional development, more efficient working practices, and demonstrating value to the community. Patients could see improved health outcomes and better quality of life, health, and wellbeing, while health services might see a reduction in health service utilisation.
1. Treadgold P, Grant C. Making the case for information: Executive summary. London; 2013.
2. Bostock S, Steptoe A. Association between low functional health literacy and mortality in older adults: longitudinal cohort study. British Medical Journal. 2012;344:e1602-e11.
4. Koh HK, Berwick DM, Clancy CM, Baur C, Brach C, Harris LM, et al. New federal policy initiatives to boost health literacy can help the nation move beyond the cycle of costly ‘crisis care’. Health Affairs (Project Hope). 2012;31(2):434-43.
5. Schillinger D, Grumbach K, Piette J, Wang F, Osmond D, Daher C, et al. Association of health literacy with diabetes outcomes. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2002;288(4):475-82.
6. Remshardt MA. The impact of patient literacy on healthcare practices. Nursing Management. 2011;42(11):24-9.
7. Berkman ND, Sheridan SL, Donahue KE, Halpern DJ, Crotty K. Low health literacy and health outcomes: an updated systematic review. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2011;155(2):97-107.
8. Baker DW, Wolf MS, Feinglass J, Thompson Ja, Gazmararian Ja, Huang J. Health literacy and mortality among elderly persons. Archives of Internal Medicine. 2007;167(14):1503-9.
9. Raynor DT. Health literacy: Is it time to shift our focus from patient to provider. British Medical Journal. 2012;344:e2188.
10. Oliveira D, Bosco A, di Lorito C. Is poor health literacy a risk factor for dementia in older adults? Systematic literature review of prospective cohort studies. Maturitas. 2019;124:8-14.
11. Dufour I, Lacasse A, Chouinard M, Chiu Y, Lafontaine S. Health literacy and use of healthcare services among community-dwelling older adults living with chronic conditions Clinical Nursing Studies. 2019;7(2):79-86.
12. Fabbri M, Yost K, Finney Rutten LJ, Manemann SM, Boyd CM, Jensen D, et al. Health Literacy and Outcomes in Patients With Heart Failure: A Prospective Community Study. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 2018;93(1):9-15.
13. Balakrishnan MP, Herndon JB, Zhang J, Payton T, Shuster J, Carden DL. The Association of Health Literacy With Preventable Emergency Department Visits: A Cross-sectional Study. 2017;24(9):1042-50.
14. Bragard I, Coucke P, Pétré B, Etienne A, Guillaume M. Health literacy, a way to reduce social health inequalities. Revue Medicale de Liege. 2017;72(1):32-6.
15. Peterson G, Aslani P, Williams KA. How do consumers search for and appraise information on medicines on the Internet? A qualitative study using focus groups. Journal of Medical Internet Research. 2003;5(4).
16. Vida Estacio E, Whittle R, Protheroe J. The digital divide: Examining socio-demographic factors associated with health literacy, access and use of internet to seek health information Journal of Health Psychology. 2019;24(12):1668-75.
17. Miller TA. Health literacy and adherence to medical treatment in chronic and acute illness: A meta-analysis. Patient Education and Counseling. 2016;99(7):1079-86.
18. Pollock K, Grime J. GPs’ perspectives on managing time in consultations with patients suffering from depression: a qualitative study. Family Practice. 2003;20(3):262-69.
19. The Royal Australasian College of Physicians. Towards a national primary care strategy: A discussion paper from the Australian government. Sydney; 2009.
20. Panagioti M, Skevington SM, Hann M, Howells K, Blakemore A, Reeves D, et al. Effect of health literacy on the quality of life of older patients with long-term conditions: a large cohort study in UK general practice. 2018;27(5):1257-68.
21. World Health Organization, editor Health promotion: Track 2 : Health literacy and health behaviour. 7th Global Conference on Health Promotion; 2009; Nairobi: World Health Organization,.
22. Belcastro PA, Ramsaroop-Hansen H. Addressing the Antinomy Between Health Education and Health Literacy in Advancing Personal Health and Public Health Outcomes. 2017;87(12):968-74.
23. Neal MRO, Geiger BF, Cellitti MA, Smith KH. Web sense: Assisting individuals with disabilities and caregivers to find online health information. Journal of Consumer Health On the Internet. 2012;16(3):295-306.
24. SCONUL Advisory Committee on Information Literacy. Information skills in higher education. London; 1999.
25. Akobeng AK. Principles of evidence based medicine. Archives of Disease in Childhood. 2005;90(8):837-40.
26. Sackett DL. Evidence-based medicine. Seminars in Perinatology. 1997;21(1):3-5.
27. Silberg WM, Lundberg GD, Musacchio RA. Assessing, controlling, and assuring the of medical information on the Internet quality. Journal of the American Medical Association. 1997;277(15):1244-45.
Health Information Week takes place between 1st-7th
July 2019. So, what impact do you want your contribution to make?
We all know it’s important to evaluate impact, to show what benefit there is from putting time and resources into an event like #HIW2019. However, #HIW2019 hasn’t happened yet – so why are we thinking about evaluating it now? It’s really important to think about what you want your contribution to #HIW2019 to achieve now, so you can plan how you will collect the data to assess whether you have successfully achieved the impact you were planning for. Perhaps you want to encourage a behaviour change by highlighting ways to have a healthy lifestyle or encourage people to take up a particular call to action? Identifying the impact you want your information to have early on, and how you will measure it, will make it much easier to demonstrate the value of investing the time and resources involved.
Some of the data you might want to collect:
Numbers: How many people attended your event(s)? How many took up free health checks (weight, blood pressure, etc.)? How many took leaflets, asked questions, or made health pledges? How many people interacted with your social media posts? Did service use change? Did any local newspapers or other media report on your event?
Qualitative data: What impact do patients and members of the public say #HIW2019 had for them? What did they learn? What questions did they ask? What impact do colleagues and contacts from your own and other organisations describe from #HIW2019 ? Are they willing to provide quotes?
Photos: Photos of your event or display can give the feel of your event in a way that words can’t (although do bear in mind the need for appropriate consent when taking photos)
Other information: What worked well? Which contacts have you made within your own or other organisations? What has happened as a result? What would you do differently next time?
The#HIW2018 evaluation also gives some examples of the types of information and data you could collect.
There’s a number of ways you can collect data and share your #HIW2019 evaluations:
Postcards for attendees ask key questions to assess the impact of your promotional activity; what the person gained from attending your event; and how it will help them. It also asks if they would be willing to be interviewed in more detail, which would give rich qualitative impact data.
Postcards for organisers ask key questions to assess impact in terms of uptake of resources, social media traffic, service use, and improved partnership working.
However you choose to evaluate #HIW2019 , please share it with the national team at email@example.com or via the survey. We will collate all the information, so learning can be shared nationally and everybody working with information for patients and the public can benefit from your work!