Monday, 28 October 2019

Health Literacy Training

I attended this one day train the trainer event on Health Literacy held on the 17th of October 2019 at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham. My knowledge of health literacy beforehand was vague at best and I attended the event in the hopes of improving my understanding of health literacy levels and how it affects patient care as well as gathering ideas on how to support health literacy within my organization. The event was facilitated by three Librarians, Anita Phul (Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust), Lesley Allen (Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust), and Semanti Chakraborty (University Hospital Birmingham).

It started off with looking at what health literacy is and how issues and challenges surrounding it can be addressed. It was identified as being personal from a patient's point of view with aim of equipping the patient with information on their condition at a level they can understand to make decisions about their care. It was also looked at from a societal point of view which looked at the the accessibility of health information for those in need of it.

We looked at the different types of health literacy, functional - basic skills for everyday lie, Interactive - power to interpret and balance information as well as the confidence to undertake further investigation to inform decision making, Critical - ability to critically appraise and challenge information and make links with economic, social, and cultural factors. We also looked at health literacy levels across regions in England as well as the national and regional literacy of health materials which showed the information generally provided is often at a higher level than the average literacy level of the population. We looked how health literacy levels can be compromised depending on circumstances. I especially liked the activity which helped demonstrate how a professional with a high literacy level can suddenly have a low health literacy level where they or a loved one have been diagnosed with a life changing or life threatening condition.

We had an activity which helped drive home how dealing with health information you don't understand can feel. Comments made by attendees included frustrating, feeling stupid, and this helped stress the importance of providing health information at an understandable level. We looked at the population more likely to have low health literacy and this included people with learning difficulties or learning disabilities, people with low IT skills, older people. there was an activity where attendees were encouraged to discuss examples of when health literacy has had a personal or professional impact on them. The detriments and impact of low health literacy to patients and the NHS were also addressed such as unhealthy habits, high mortality, wrong usage of medication, missed appointments etc.

The areas where librarians and library services can influence health literacy were also covered.This included improving health literacy levels, ensuring information and services are accessible to all, and raising health literacy awareness. This can be done by using techniques such as Teach Back and Chunk and check to empower individuals and ensuring written information provided is at an appropriate level for the audience (i.e. simple, free of jargon, free of acronyms, conversational, use of everyday words, free of needless information etc.). We were also supplied with a list of tools that support creating health information and attendees talked about local initiatives they were aware of. The event ended with some recommendations that should be promoted such as not making assumptions about literacy or ability to speak or hear, and using different media to share health information, use of simple explanations.

The event had a good mix or presentations and activities but I found it a lot to take in and didn't have as much opportunity to share ideas with other attendees as I would have liked. It showed me that there is a varied mix of health literacy support already in place across a range of NHS Libraries and I took away some ideas on how to help my organisation create a patient information register and ensure that the information supplied are at an appropriate level. I also got the idea to support the discharge facilitators with how the information supplied to patients is provided in a way that will enable compliance. I believe the event was suitable for anyone looking to start off a Health Literacy service or looking for more ideas on how to improve an existing service.