HEALTH LITERACY/ WELCOME TO HOT ON HEALTH!

    Before I begin, before I explain what Hot on Health is or why I think it’s so important, I want to say thank you. Thank you, of course, for deciding to watch my first episode and read this first essay. More importantly though, thank you for taking an interest in health. It seems the most simple thing in the world; health is something we all share in common. Unfortunately however health is something that people only tend to focus on when it comes to poor health. Like many things in life though, health is a continuum that will change all throughout our lives. It’s a shame we don’t take more time to appreciate and attempt to maintain good health. Then again, here we are ready to learn more about health; I’m so excited for this launch! 

    Let’s get to it; what is Hot on Health and who am I? Hot on Health is a movement designed to make health information easy to understand and accessible through video-tutorials and mini-essays. My name is Robbie and I work as a registered nurse in general practice. Through my work I’ve noticed some pretty big knowledge gaps that exist in our understanding of common health issues (things like sexual health, chronic illness, travel health, immunisations, and many more). I want to bridge these gaps and with this knowledge empower people to make positive health changes. 

    I will upload short videos covering as many different topics as I can and every video will have a partner essay. My motivation for this is that I want the videos to be everything that I feel is lacking from health promotion material right now. They should be punchy, informative, engaging and entertaining. People around the word are realising that utilising entertainment and dramatics into health promotion is having great effects on people’s understanding. The idea of health however is so multi-faceted and complicated that for people who want to learn more about a particular topic a more formal and explanatory method will be available in essay form.

    Let’s be clear, I am not the first person to identify this need for better information sources on health. The correct term for understanding health information is ‘Health Literacy.’ Generally when we think of literacy we think of reading, writing and numbers. If you apply that concept to health it essentially means the ability to obtain and understand basic health information and utilise that information to make decisions about health. As I said earlier though, health is broad. Health literacy might refer to understanding when to take a prescribed medicine, weighing up the risks vs. benefits of having surgery, how to make an appointment to see the doctor or whether to use a condom with a casual sex partner. How would you rate your health literacy? 

    Research shows that generally speaking health literacy is poor. This doesn’t shock me at all. Firstly hearing health information from a doctor or health care worker can be intimidating. Our stress kicks in, we feel vulnerable and our brain shuts down. More than that though most health information currently out there is targeted at people already in a health care setting, potentially experiencing a health issue, and isn’t relatable to the decisions we make in everyday life. Finally a lot of that information is elitist and confusing! It’s all well and good for me to say I have an alright understanding of healthcare because I have a degree in healthcare! Those of us in the industry need to work harder to change this and invite people in to the fold. 

    Disclaimer: I am a registered nurse but don’t pretend to be an expert or guru on every topic I will discuss. I have a lot of anecdotal evidence and I am regularly reading and researching, but some of this will be as much a learning experience for me as it will for you. Any resources and references I use I will share; I encourage you to read them and also to start opening up these kinds of conversations in your life. Health should not be as scary as it is currently portrayed to be. If we all commit to doing some research, engaging in tough and necessary conversations and changing the dialogue around health from negative to positive then we can help ourselves, our loved ones and future generations. 

    I can’t wait to see the impact on healthcare that we all make by participating in this movement! Thank you again.


References/ Suggested Reading:

ACQSHC, 2014, ‘Health Literacy: Taking action to improve safety and quality’, Australian Commission on Quality and Safety in Health Care Health Literacy: Taking action to improve safety and quality, viewed 04 April 2016, <http://www.safetyandquality.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Health-Literacy-Taking-action-to-improve-safety-and-quality.pdf>.

Myhre, S. & Flora, J. 2000, ‘HIV/AIDS Communication Campaigns: Progress and Prospects’, Journal of Health Communications, vol. 5, pp. 29 - 45. 

Peerson, A. & Saunders, M. 2009, ‘Health Literacy Revisited: what do we mean and why does it matter?’, Health Promotion International, vol. 24, no. 3, pp. 285 - 296.

Stanley Yoder, P., Hornik, R. & Chirwa, B. 2016, ‘Evaluating the Program Effects of a Radio Drama about AIDS in Zambia’,Studies in Family Planning, vol. 27, no. 4, pp 188 - 203.