I attended this forum hosted by the Royal Women’s Hospital late last month and I think I was the only medical librarian there. To me, this was bad news. Health literacy includes information literacy and if health professionals have poor information literacy, health literacy programs run by health professionals are doomed. As an information professional in the healthcare field who is also involved in a health literacy program, I run a lot of education sessions for hospital staff on various topics. The health literacy program I am involved in is for the public and free, but health professionals were attending too. Is something wrong here?
The first presenter, Dr Rima Rudd was a good speaker and her presentation covered literacy, how people learn in the community as well as how information is presented to patients. The important point she wanted to convey was that people with poor health literacy have less political power and have poorer health outcomes. Dr Karen Luxford repeated part of what Rudd said but added information about the Australian context. Dr Sophie Hill gave some practical examples of what Cochrane Consumers & Communication Review Group is doing and then there were some presentations about various projects. Dr Nicola Dunbar from the ACSQHC talked about how standards can help improve patient experience. A mixed bag really. So what was the outcome of this forum? Attendees expressed interest in creating a network where they can all contribute and there is a basic Facebook page which I have yet to look at because it is blocked here at work.
I am certain that medical and health librarians have a vital part to play in improving health literacy, and librarians and libraries in general. Move beyond the echo chamber!