Dr GRAHAM KRAMER
GP, Annat Bank Practice, Montrose
Previously Clinical Lead for Self Management and
Health Literacy, Scottish Government
For many years, we have been aware of the difficulty people have making sense of health and healthcare issues and the impact this can have on their wellbeing. This issue of "health literacy", having long been a public health concern, is increasingly a challenge to frontline healthcare professionals. The growing demands and expectations that modern medicine places on people often overwhelms them, undermining the safety and effectiveness of healthcare.
A Scottish Government scoping study in 2009 looked at the national and international evidence on the impact of health literacy. It was clear something had to be done. However, it was less clear what needed to be done.
This challenge represented an exciting new frontier for healthcare. In enterprising fashion an expert group of health literacy pioneers was convened to prioritise actions that could make a difference.
What followed was a journey of immense learning. We redefined poor health literacy, not simply as a hidden deficit residing within individuals but as a series of complicated unaddressed social and systemic barriers within communities and our health and social care organisations.
We realised that health literacy affects all of us to varying extents, whether as a patient, carer, family member, teacher, community worker, or employer, as well as health managers and professionals. And all of us have a contribution to make to help remove those barriers and make it easier for us to safeguard and manage our wellbeing and the wellbeing of others.
As such we proposed an ambition to "make Scotland a health literate society that enables all of us to live (and die) well on our own terms and with any health condition we may have".
In 2014 Making it Easy was published. Whilst recognising health literacy is a societal issue, it limited itself to challenging the health and care system to get its own house in order, to simplify and remove the barriers to people's understanding, knowledge, confidence and skills. Removing these barriers is an important rights and equity issue.
Email: Blythe Robertson, firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit
The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House