Developing Health Literacy Skills through the Use of Community Based Surveys and Multimedia Productions

University of South Australia, Australia


Given less than half of all adults in developed countries possess adequate health literacy, it is imperative that new health professionals possess the skills to effectively communicate health messages to individuals with varying health literacy levels.

This paper describes a scaffolded module to promote an understanding of health literacy amongst undergraduate students; 1) a community based survey and subsequent literature review, 2) construction of a storyboard and audio script for a multimedia presentation to communicate the health message, 3) construction of a multimedia presentation, 4) feedback on the presentation from the community. Prior to the course, most students were unable to fully define the term 'health literacy'. The activity proved effective in promoting an understanding of health literacy with 83% self-reporting a better understanding of health literacy. After training, the percentage of students over-estimating the prevalence of low 'health literacy' in the Australian population decreased from 71% to 18% (p<0.001). Significant improvements in the belief that health literacy is influenced by language and literacy levels, an individual's interaction with their community (p<0.001 for both) and to a lesser extent numeracy skills (p<0.01) were also observed. The multimedia presentations were well received within the community.

Effective communication, in a form that is understandable and empowers consumers to manage their own health is fundamental to any health professional. Accordingly, all undergraduate health professionals should be given the opportunity to practice and master these skills throughout their training.

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