AHRQ Health Literacy Toolkit Supports Better Health Communication in Tasmania
The State of Tasmania’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has used elements of AHRQ’s Health Literacy Universal Precautions Toolkit in its plan to help patients better understand health information. Addressing health literacy in Tasmania, an island south of mainland Australia, is a priority for both policymakers and service providers because a national survey found that only 37 percent of people in Tasmania had adequate health literacy.
Tasmania’s Communication and Health Literacy Action Plan "was developed in consultation with consumers, health care providers, and a dedicated working group," explained Diane Webb, R.N., C.D.E., health literacy and policy planning officer for DHHS. "The need for a Communication and Health Literacy Workplace Toolkit was identified as one of the key strategies."
AHRQ’s Health Literacy Universal Precautions Toolkit "... is comprehensive and covers health literacy at the individual practice, organization, and systems levels. AHRQ’s work brings together information from a range of sources, as well as produces new resources where there are gaps," said Shandell Elmer, Ph.D., R.N., senior lecturer and health literacy researcher at the University of Tasmania.
DHHS tested some of AHRQ’s health literacy tools and adopted the most useful strategies, such as "The Teach-Back Method" (Tool 5); "Welcome Patients—Helpful Attitude, Signs, and More" (Tool 13); and "Encourage Questions" (Tool 14) into Tasmanian health practices.
Using AHRQ’s toolkit as a model, DHHS developed its Communication and Health Literacy Workplace Toolkit to help approximately 19,800 providers and 4,000 community service workers learn about and implement health literacy strategies. This toolkit was part of a larger effort, the Communication and Health Literacy Action Plan 2011-2013, which was later updated and extended until July 2017.
Available on the DHHS Web site since 2013, Tasmania’s toolkit assists in meeting accreditation requirements and building capacity to respond to health literacy needs. Initially expected to be a resource for DHHS health services, the toolkit grew to be used more broadly across Tasmania and other locations in Australia. Organizations linking to the DHHS Web site include Primary Health Tasmania, the University of Tasmania, and organizations outside of Tasmania, such as the Australian Diabetes Educator Association.
The DHHS toolkit fact sheets are used in training workshops to help staff improve communications skills, especially with consumers. From 2013 until 2016, approximately 400 participants attended 50 such workshops. In addition, the University of Tasmania uses the toolkit to train undergraduate health science students, and a DHHS-supported community project used the toolkit to develop an information resource about nutrition for parents of babies and children through age five.