Health education is a vital role within nursing, as it can assist individuals, their families and whanau to make informed choices to maintain and improve their health (Crisp & Taylor, 2009). Within New Zealand, poor health literacy rates are of concern. Statistics show 56.2% of New Zealand adults scored beneath the minimum requirement to meet the daily demands of life and work (Ministry of Health, 2010). The purpose of this assignment is to discuss health literacy, as well as to provide strategies that can be applied to improve high literacy rates within New Zealand. A reflection on how learning about health literacy will contribute to future nursing practice will conclude the assignment.
Health literacy is defined as “the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions” (Ministry of Health, 2010, p. iii).
Furthermore, this definition emphasizes that health literacy is more than just being able to read instructions; it acknowledges whether a client is able to listen to and analyse health information. This includes the capacity to read prescription directives, comprehend health education brochures, understand health professional’s instructions and accurately complete consent forms in order to make appropriate health decisions (Health Navigator NZ, 2013).
Results from the 2006 Adult Literacy & Life Skills Survey found approximately 1.6 million New Zealand adults have low health literacy skills (Workbase, n.d). Furthermore, Maori between the ages of 16 and 65 have the poorest health literacy in comparison to non-Maori across all of the measured variables (Ministry of Health, 2010).
Reduced health literacy, according to international research findings, is connected to poor health status. Therefore, this creates a barrier to accessing appropriate health services and may also be a strong contributor to inequalities within health (Ministry of Health, 2010). People with reduced levels of health literacy are more likely to be admitted to hospital, access emergency services frequently, are less likely to participate in screening and immunisation programmes, are prone to increased risk in medication misuse and have a lower ability to decipher labels and vital health messages (New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) and College of Nurses Aotearoa (NZ) Inc, 2012).
Furthermore, The Health & Disability Code of Rights clearly identifies all consumers have the right to effective communication and to be fully informed (Health & Disability Commissioner Act 2009). Valid consent cannot be given by a person who has not received sufficient information. Moreover, if health information is not presented in a way the consumer understands this can cause legal implications to the health professional involved.
To boost health literacy amongst New Zealand’s population, initiatives need to be implemented from all sectors such as government...