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Improving Health Literacy

Wednesday, 17 May 2017  
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New Zealand Medical Association Policy Briefing

Click here to read the Improving Health Literacy Policy Briefing.


The New Zealand Medical Association is today releasing a policy briefing on Improving Health Literacy, that seeks to promote a shared understanding of what health literacy means, why it is important, and what can be done to improve it.


This is relevant for all healthcare professionals, healthcare managers, as well as policy and decision makers across multiple sectors. We encourage you to read the briefing and note the recommendations.


Health literacy is important. Lower levels of health literacy are associated with:

  • increased rates of hospitalisation and greater use of emergency care
  • poorer ability to take medications properly and to interpret labels
  • poorer overall health status and a higher risk of death among older people.

Poor health literacy is a particular issue for disadvantaged and vulnerable groups as it can exacerbate underlying health access and equity issues.


Improving health literacy is not just about individuals; it needs system changes. We want to build the capacity of people to make effective decisions and take appropriate action for their own healthcare; we also need to improve the capacity of the health system to support this and allow it to happen.


I hope you find this a useful, thought-provoking briefing, and urge you to investigate further the resources highlighted in the document. As our Recommendation 10 notes, improving health literacy should underpin all national health and wellbeing strategies.


Kind regards
Dr Stephen Child
Chair, NZMA

HiNZ, PO Box 300125, Albany, Auckland 0752, New Zealand.

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