New Zealand Uses AHRQ Resources to Promote Nationwide Health Literacy Initiative
AHRQ resources influenced New Zealand’s efforts to increase health literacy among its 4.5 million citizens. Both the New Zealand Ministry of Health and the Health Quality & Safety Commission New Zealand used AHRQ resources to advance the goal of a more health-literate health system.
"Having AHRQ's work to build on was immeasurably helpful. It really prevented us from having to reinvent the wheel," said Susan Reid, L.L.B., M.A., health literacy specialist. She and her colleague, Carla White, B.B.M., M.A., assisted the government’s health literacy initiative.
New Zealand's Ministry of Health used a report led by an AHRQ researcher and published by the National Academies of Science, "Ten Attributes of Health Literate Health Care Organizations," as one of the main guidance documents when developing the country’s health literacy framework. The framework, released in 2015, serves as the country’s vision for building a more health-literate society.
"The framework helps health system leaders, health organizations, and the health work force create a culture shift toward a more health-literate system, leading to better health outcomes for individuals and their extended family, while reducing health costs," Ms. Reid said.
About 56 percent of adults in New Zealand have limited health literacy, according to government survey data. The country provides a mixed public-private health care system for its citizens.
In addition to the "Ten Attributes" report, the Ministry of Health used AHRQ’s Health Literacy Universal Precautions Toolkit to develop a health literacy review guide. The guide is designed to address patients' health literacy needs and reduce potential barriers to receiving care. The AHRQ toolkit helps primary care practices by providing evidence-based tools that promote effective communication and patient empowerment. Several tools are specifically recommended in the health literacy review guide.
"We used the 'Toolkit' and the 'Ten Attributes' report to develop the structure of the review process to evaluate how each part of a health service and organization contributes to building health literacy," Ms. Reid said.
"Because of the way health systems and services are designed and delivered, consumers sometimes face demands that affect their ability to access care," she continued. "The [health literacy review] guide is intended to help health organizations reduce those demands on consumers by providing practical tools to review and change the way that organizations design and deliver health services."
By mid-2016, the review guide was being used in two areas of the country, South Auckland and Hawke's Bay, collectively representing about 15 percent of the country’s population.
Working with the Ministry of Health to promote health literacy is the Health Quality & Safety Commission New Zealand, which also recommends AHRQ resources to health care professionals. The two organizations collaborated on a medication safety project that provided health literacy training for all community pharmacists. The Commission’s publication, "Three Steps to Better Health Literacy: A Guide for Health Professionals," recommends several AHRQ resources. These include the Health Literacy Universal Precautions Toolkit, Pharmacy Health Literacy Center, which promotes medication knowledge and safety, and the Patient Education Materials Assessment Tool, which provides a systematic method to evaluate whether patient education materials can be understood and acted upon.