Health literacy good, but if you are ill, not so much

A new national survey finds most Australians have a positive view of their own health literacy --- that is the ability to get, understand and use information to promote good health.

However, the Australian Bureau of Statistics survey shows that in general, people with chronic illness or who are experiencing psychological distress are less likely to feel positive about their health literacy.

The CEO of the Consumers Health Forum, Leanne Wells, said that the report’s findings conveyed the somewhat contradictory views that consumers could express about their health arrangements, depending on their health status, and underlined the need for stronger support and information aids for those with chronic illness.

“This is a timely report given it is Patient Experience Week.  Many Australians will say that our health system is great, and that is true to a large extent if you are healthy. However, for people experiencing complex and chronic conditions, navigating the health system can become much more difficult.

“The ABS found that one third of Australians found it always easy to discuss health concerns and engage with their healthcare providers, 56 per cent found this usually easy while 12 per cent it difficult.

“But while about one quarter of people felt socially supported in managing their health, those with three or more long-term health conditions (17 per cent) were less likely to strongly agree, compared with the 29 per cent who didn’t report a long-term health condition.

“Similar findings are shown when comparing the responses of those people who reported very high levels of psychological distress with people who don’t have such conditions.

“The survey finds similar outcomes on the question of managing long-term health conditions: those who don’t have such conditions express more confidence about managing such conditions than those who are actually experiencing the reality of long, significant illness.

“These differences are borne out also in other contexts:  better educated people are more likely to say they can actively manage their health than lower educated, as is the case with couple-only families compared with people living along and with non-smokers as compared with non-smokers.

“These, and a variety of other indicators measured in this survey, once again highlight the need for health services and supports to be extended to those who need and would benefit more,” Ms Wells said.


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