Population health share tips for improving health literacy

Students at Rooty Hill High choosing health food options. Picture: Geoff Jones.

The team at WSLHD Health Promotion know all too well the benefits of health literacy for improving the health of our community.

“We aim to build healthy public policy, create supportive environments, strengthen community actions, develop personal skills and reorient Health Services to build a healthier community,” Christine Newman, WSLHD Health Promotion Director said.

“Health Literacy boosts the confidence, knowledge and skills of individuals enabling them to take action and improve their health.

“We do this by improving people’s access to health information and their capacity to use it effectively so they can change their behaviours and adopt healthier lifestyle habits.”

The ‘STAR Canteen’ program is one example of Health Literacy in action. It offers schools and canteen managers an array of support including engaging student projects to increase their understanding of the health impacts of food in their canteen.  Resources for teachers and a competition for students act to integrate lessons learnt into everyday practice. Students develop a healthy canteen recipe idea for the canteen menu and the best recipes are voted on and sold in the canteen.

The ‘Project Sweet Defeat’ pilot is increasing the understanding of Mt Druitt youth about the health impacts of sugar sweetened drinks, through hands-on activities. Young people use media that they are comfortable with, such as posters, videos and social media, to create their own messages and raise awareness in the wider community. Click here to watch a recap.

If you are thinking of taking the plunge to improve Health Literacy in your department but do not know where to start, here are some tips from the Health Promotion team:

  • Clearly define your target audience. You may need to segment your audience and tailor messages to suit
  • Co-design with your target audience from the beginning so they are part of the process
  • Test, test and re-test. Ensure your project and messages are effective in influencing change among your target audience

For information about Health Literacy, contact Dani Muscat via danielle.muscat@sydney.edu.au at the WSLHD Health Literacy Hub.