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Using health literacy as a way to address inequalities in health systems

Aug 11, 2015

 ‘Of all forms of discrimination and inequalities, injustice in health is the most shocking and inhuman’ said Dr Martin Luther King Jr.

Michal Morris, General Manager at the Centre for Culture, Ethnicity and Health (CEH) led with this powerful quote in her recent presentation at the Inaugural International Conference on Migration, Social Disadvantage and Health. Michal discussed the initiative to address low heath literacy level of Australians – 59% of Australians have low health literacy including 75% refugees and migrants.

In 2011, a health literacy project was created, in partnership with HealthWest and cohealth, with the key feature being a course. The course was designed to encourage and equip organisations with the skills to improve health literacy. Participants came from local government, hospitals, community services and peak bodies.

By encouraging change at the organisational level, this course was successful in creating a ripple effect across the western suburbs of Melbourne. The course is now in its third year and continues to build upon organisation’s skills and systems to improve heath literacy.The course included four face-to-face training modules and a project component for participants to implement within their organisations.

A formative evaluation of the course was undertaken by the Australian Health Workforce Institute at The University of Melbourne. The evaluation found that the participants were able to become ‘agents of change’ in their organisations. It also identified areas of improvement, including the inclusion of consumer participation from a systems perspective. CEH will continue to develop and progress its work in health literacy. 

The next step is to better understand the relationship between health literacy and cultural competency and how the health literacy lens can be used to address specific inequalities.

To find out more, download the presentation here. Conference: The Inaugural International Conference on Migration, Social Disadvantage and Health 2015 Conference theme: Intervention to reduce migration-related inequalities: what works, for whom, and in what circumstances? Presenters: Michal Morris, General Manager, Centre for Culture, Ethnicity and Health

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