Addressing health literacy in a coordinated way has the potential to increase the safety, quality and sustainability of health systems by enabling and empowering consumers to make effective decisions and take appropriate action for their own health and the health of those they love.
It has long been known that health literacy is a stronger predictor of an individual's health than income, employment status, education level, and racial or ethnic group. Conversely, poorer health literacy has been shown to result in less healthy choices, riskier behaviour, less self-management, poorer overall health and more hospitalisation.
Self Care studies are unanimous in identifying information and knowledge transfer as one of the most important barriers to the greater practice of Self Care. Further, governments must ensure that health education standards are lifted to support a comprehensive approach in achieving substantial improvements in health literacy.
But the dissemination of information is not enough; the key is ensuring that it is understandable, persuasive and actionable by people across cultures and socio-economic levels, particularly for more vulnerable groups such as indigenous communities, LGBTQ communities and women and children. A study shows that eight in 10 Australians believe it is up to individuals to take responsibility for their own health (Self Care) yet only 44 percent rated their Self Care as excellent or good.
Australia is not an isolated case; a review of more than 30 independent surveys found that a strong majority of people believed they could be making more decisions about personal health and wellness on their own. Thus, health information must always be communicated in a manner that is motivating and linguistically and culturally appropriate.
Case Study: Self Care Education in Australia: Slip. Slop, Slap
In 1980, the Australian Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria launched the 'Slip, Slop, Slap' campaign to reduce melanoma and skin cancer rates. The prevention campaign focused on a simple call to action - slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat. It was also supplemented by several public health initiatives, including an Annual National Skin Cancer Awareness Week, establishment of centres for behavioural research and epidemiological research, establishment of the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation and an accreditation program for schools to implement sun safety policies. Throughout the campaign, sun tanning lost its popularity among Australian citizens. People embraced Self Care sun protective measures, resulting in a 50% reduction in sunburns since 1988. The country has since seen melanoma rates plummet as well. The Slip, Slop, Slap program exemplifies Australia's successful approach to health care by promoting Self Care and health literacy through prevention initiatives.
WOW Self Care School
WOW Self Care School through it's 8 week program aims to use digital technology learning and experience to scale Self Care access and equity. With the expansion of mobile phones, smart phone applications, internet access and artificial intelligence people are discovering new ways to engage in Self Care. Digital platforms such as WOW Self Care School offer a means to facilitate and promote Self Care that provided privacy for individuals who may otherwise be subjected to stigma and discrimination when seeking care and services in the formal health care system. Digital tools can function both as the delivery mechanism and the Self Care intervention itself.