Health Literacy in Media and Healthcare


The National Adult health Literacy Agency(N.A.L.A) are currently running a health literacy initiative for members of all sectors of the health profession and members of the media who specialise in health promotion.

On Tuesday the 27th , NALA held their first seminar at the swift room in the Gresham Metropole since the Irish findings  for the E.U. funded Health literacy survey were announced at the Health Literacy Awards in Dublin on the 27th of November 2011.

Organiser, Denise McBride gave an overview as to ‘Why Literacy Matters in the Health sector, she also gave the Irish statistical results from the European Health Literacy Survey.Mrs McBride said: “One of the key highlights were that statistically four out of ten people in Ireland, have inadequate literacy skills to understanding the information that is written on health promotion leaflets and nutritional products.” Mrs McBride also discussed the free Adult Basic Education services that are provided  by the City of Cork(VEC),while also encouraging those present at the event to become volunteer tutors giving up two hours of their time a week for help with reading, writing, spelling, basic numeracy, form filling, letter writing, computer literacy and driving theory tuition.

At the event were human resource personnel and Nursing authority figures from the Bon- Secour and Mercy hospitals who were excited about integrating the initiative to daily practice. Many of the audience gave feedback on the importance of supporting vulnerable groups in Irish society with their overall healthcare needs. Commenting on the results of the Survey, Doctor Gerardine Doyle( Principal Investigator for Ireland) said: “One of the key findings of the study is that there is a strong relationship between health literacy and education, those with lower education have a lower level of health literacy. This has important implications in the development and integration of health matters in the school curricula from the earliest stages of education.”

Health literacy co-ordinator, Jennie Lynch spoke about the ‘Best Health Communication through journalism category’ at the Crystal Clear MSD Health Literacy Awards. She encouraged members of the media to enter, saying that: “last year’s winner in this category John O’Mahony news editor with The Irish Examiner put together the suicide in Ireland initiative based on his interview findings with people affected with suicide.” She also said:  “He was able to make a significant difference to suicide awareness by publishing 700 thousand copies of the booklet with the newspaper, an additional 200 thousand copies were also distributed through the national suicide support group Console and the community network Rapid.” Mrs.Lynch said that thousands of these copies were also distributed to schools, youth groups, parents associations, the HSE and Amnesty international and she also hoped for  more contribution from members of the Irish media.

Journalism lecturer, Berna Cox held a two hour workshop on plain English training that predominantly focused on the everyday use of language in writing and print instead of the use of specialized jargon. She spoke about the resources that are available to health professionals such as the website simplyput.ie , which is dedicated to all things English including; quick tips and lists of words and phrases to replace in dialogue with patients and readers of health literature. She also said: “that although the health sector was the main concern responding to financial terms for health insurance  was increasingly becoming problematic for those with low level literacy skills, it is imperative that health professional and the media are able to get information across to patients clearly and concisely, this is why we have set up this organisation to provide membership to our network of training and seminars.”

Each year N.A.L.A. continues to recognise its members in all categories of it’s annual Crystal Clear MSD Health Literacy Awards.

Another important factor discussed by the audience suggested the importance of plain English training for those working in the economic sectors. Essentially it’s importance is reflected in how members of the general public deal with banking officials. The Jargon presented in mortgage and Insurance policies may baffle the average reader depending on their level of education they have received. The information contained in these policies may be seen as far too complex for the average person.

Thirty two years on and The National Adult Literacy Agency is still committed to working with the media and government to develop policies and practices that will help to reduce literacy related barriers. NALA seeks to assist professionals with their difficulties in communication with the wider social demographic. Plain English training in communications skills is an essential way to write and present information so that a reader can understand and act on it after a single reading. NALA is associated with PLAIN (plain language association international, the plain language action information network and the Irish Medical times.

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