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17th June 2016

Health Literacy

I came across the term 'health literacy' recently when researching one of my blogs. I was puzzled: did it mean knowing where to get health guidance books? Or how to read medical articles? Perhaps encouraging writing about health?

But all has been revealed. I came across a recent publication by Alliance in Scotland which deals with signposting for services. It deals with guiding people to the range of services, formal and informal, which may help them in any issues which they have about their health and wellbeing. So health literacy means, at least, familiarity with resources, local and national, to support and promote health and wellbeing.

It is a vitally important issue in today's climate. We are called the information society, yet the diversity and increase in information sources and methods is in danger of obscuring easy access to information we need. Do we search on twitter, email, Facebook or just Google? Who will guide us where to ask? What should we ask about?

Information, when we need it, and where we need it is becoming more elusive. It is perhaps helpful to see where accessible information is worked towards as a goal in providing services. The Aberdeenshire Signposting project is an example of this. It is an inter-agency service, involving a partnership between Aberdeen Council and the Choose life organisation. The service states their goal is to promote mental health recovery while they ' ... work with clients to find tailored solutions to the non-medical issues affecting their quality of life, mood and wellbeing.'

The service is accessible and publicised in GP surgeries, hospitals and other public venues. The service also states that they offer ‘... help to clients, their families and carers who are at risk of developing, or who have developed, a deterioration in their mood or wellbeing.' The avoidance of the label here, and the widened focus on people at risk, including carers and families, indicates a clear and positive person-centred approach. It is also a model for what might be called the new model of care: preventive, partnership based, and with the focus in the community and on social networks.

I wrote a few weeks ago on aspects of end of life care which for some people were not adequate. Care was often focussed on the medical problem, not on conversations and planning the future together with the patient. The care for some people did not look at their ordinary needs such as for financial support and other community services which they may need.

This signposting initiative is an antidote to these sorts of problems, and is to be celebrated as the way forward in ensuring person-centred, community care tailored to the needs of each person. It changes the information society into an open, knowledgeable community.

We need more signposting.

Tony Clarke – QCS Expert Scottish Care Contributor




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