[ASC-list] Media Release: Victorian project targets low levels of health literacy

Ian Muchamore ian at imthinking.com.au
Thu Aug 8 03:57:04 UTC 2013

Issued by Mandi O’Garretty, Government and Media Relations, Deakin
Phone 03 5227 2776   Mobile 0418 361 890

*9 August 2013*


As many as one in four Victorians struggle to navigate the maze of health
information and health care services, putting them at increased risk of
hospitalisation and their medical conditions being inadequately managed.

Deakin University public health researchers are leading Ophelia
Victoria (OPtimising
HEalth LIterAcy), a new project with the Victorian Department of Health and
Monash University, to improve health literacy in the state. The project has
a particular focus on people with chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart
disease, arthritis and mental health problems. It was launched today
(Friday 9 August 2013) by the Minister for Health David Davis.

According to Deakin’s professor of public health, Richard Osborne, health
literacy is crucial to a person’s ability to best manage their health.

“Health literacy is far more than just being able to read the label on a
medicine bottle. It is about knowing where to go for health information and
then understanding and making use of that information,” Professor Osborne

“Improving health literacy will lead to fairer and more efficient health
services where people are better supported in managing their health.

“We know for example that there are over one million Australians diagnosed
with type-2 diabetes. Many of these people will struggle to find the
relevant health information they need. Our health care services can be
highly complex to navigate and diabetes patients may have multiple points
of contact with different services.

“Paying more attention to the health literacy issues of people living with
conditions such as diabetes could reduce the poor and potentially
preventable outcomes, such as amputations and blindness, which do occur
even in modern healthcare systems like Victoria’s.”

This is where Ophelia Victoria steps in.

Ophelia Victoria is a three year initiative, funded by the Australian
Research Council and the Victorian government, to identify and test new
health literacy interventions in eight health services. The interventions,
which are being developed and trialled in real-world settings, seek to
improve the health service’s responsiveness to people with low health
Whilst previous surveys have suggested that low health literacy is an issue
for as many as one in four Victorians, Ophelia Victoria introduces a new
benchmark health literacy survey tool which the researchers say is a major
improvement over past efforts and that the results have real clinical value.

“Not only are we capturing a meaningful picture of where Victorian’s health
literacy challenges are highest but, importantly, the team is partnering
with Victorian health professionals to develop, test and implement
solutions,” Professor Osborne said.

“We expect Ophelia Victoria to improve the health literacy of patients and
also to provide our health organisations with a structured way to
efficiently recognise, understand and respond to the health literacy needs
of the people they serve.”

The new survey tool being used by the Ophelia Victoria team is already
gaining international recognition and has been published in the
international journal BMC Public Health.

“The system-wide approach being adopted in Ophelia Victoria is also being
watched by international groups, including the World Health Organization,
and is likely to be of value in both developed and developing countries,”
Professor Osborne said.

Deakin’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Jane den Hollander said Deakin was
delighted to be partnering with the Department of Health and Monash
University in this initiative to improve the health of Victorians.

“This is a sector leading initiative that brings with it the opportunity to
make a real difference to the lives of Victorians living with chronic
conditions,” Professor den Hollander said.

“This project is particularly important to Deakin as we work hard to forge
a strong reputation in our communities for lasting and mutually beneficial

“Not only will Ophelia give people in Victoria access to the tools needed
to increase their control over and improve their health, but it is also
being closely watched by health organisations around the world. I was
recently contacted by the Director of the South East Asia office of the
World Health Organisation asking for Ophelia Victoria to be used to support
their efforts to improve health and equity in Asia and beyond.”

The eight Ophelia Victoria sites are based at Barwon Health, Bass Coast
Community Health, Bayside City Council, Central Bayside Community Health,
City of Greater Dandenong, Eastern Health, Ovens and King Community Health
and the Royal District Nursing Service.

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