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  • Writer's pictureMake It Happen Team

Health Literacy at Make It Happen

❓What stops you going to see your doctor?

❓What do you worry about when you have an appointment to attend?

❓What would make it easier for you to talk about and understand your health? Well, these questions go to the heart of the Health Literacy work we have been supporting One Wirral CIC with this year. The NHS Health Checks in the community that we have been delivering have been just one step towards tackling health inequalities here on the Wirral, and are designed to remove barriers for those community members who struggle for one reason or another to engage in our formal NHS health services locally. Being able to offer free Health Checks in the community, that provide a risk assessment of your likelihood to develop diabetes or cardiovascular problems, has been a great way to remove barriers. Community members who might have chaotic lifestyles that make keeping appointments hard or have a distrust of formal services have found it very helpful, particularly as it has been easier for them to get an appointment and that appointment has been with someone they know and trust.


But Health Literacy is about more than just access to appointments, although the digital booking system came up several times during workshops! There’s something about speaking to a real person that helps to reduce anxiety, especially as it gives you the chance to ask questions and have key points of information repeated. But as the world becomes more digital, people also came up with some suggestions to help them adapt and stay engaged in NHS services. These ranged from having Health Professionals come out to community centres to run digital sessions, helping people to make bookings and access online prescriptions, to digital advocates in the community that can people with long term health issues keep on top of things and get the information they need. Digital inclusion projects were mentioned several times as a great way to give people the digital tools they need to navigate the modern health care system.

The other key point about Health Literacy that came up was all about communication, whether that’s face to face or online, in a hospital or at your local GP practice. Good communication takes time, but it can massively reduce stress and therefore lead to better long-term outcomes for people. Having a ‘communication profile’ as part of your medical file was a good suggestion to help doctors tailor their communication to the individual, such as sending paper reminders, while having a step-by-step guide for every different type of appointment or care interaction would help patients manage expectations and be prepared, allowing appointments to hopefully run more smoothly. Mental health was also an important consideration as communication can have such an impact on how people feel, and whether they find an appointment too intimidating on the day. Building trust is of course one of the best ways to reduce stress and anxiety, and it's important to remember that sometimes medical things and words can be hard to understand, so a mixture of active listening and careful questioning (such as asking a patient to repeat back information and demonstrate understanding) was recommended by several participants in our workshops.

The Health Literacy conversation continues, if you have any thoughts or ideas, questions or solutions please pop us an email to wellbeingteam@makeithappenbirkenhead.co.uk, give us a call on 0151 306 4840 or get in touch via Facebook... or come say hello at our Place of Contribution on Argyle Street!


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