UK professor’s ‘light-bulb’ moment on health literacy

Professor Joanne Protheroe will be sharing her knowledge on health literacy.

Professor Joanne Protheroe is a Professor of General Practice at Keele University and has been a practising General Practitioner for over 18 years.

She will share her insights on health literacy at the up-coming Western Sydney Local Health District health literacy launch event.

The inspirational and passionate Professor Protheroe, told The Pulse that through her PhD studies she gained a strong understanding of the importance of Health Literacy to patients.

These studies involved a trial combining shared decision-making and computerised decision aids for women experiencing heavy menstrual bleeding (menorrhagia).

But it was during her time working at an inner-city GP practice in a social socio-economically deprived area of Manchester back in 2001, that she had a ‘light-bulb’ moment.

“I realised that it’s impossible to actively engage in your health care, to share in decisions, if you do not have access to understandable information about your choices – if you have low health literacy,” she said.

“During the course of my research, I received thank you cards from some women involved in the trial, who felt they had never before been able to understand that they had choices, and what they were.

“They told me that now they felt able to go and see their Dr and their gynaecologist, and not only understand them for the first time, but also ask questions and request treatments for the first time instead of just going along with what they were told.

“This was in contrast to other women in the trial who had already asked questions, looked things up on the internet, talked to their professional friends. They were already engaged in their care. This difference I saw was Health Literacy and it was very much a health equity issue.”

Prof Protheroe will share more of these insights at the WSLHD Health Literacy Launch Event (supported by ACI), on December 3, at The Park Royal Hotel, Parramatta.

Speaking about health literacy in the UK from a primary care and general practice perspective, she will explain why health literacy matters to her as a practising GP.  We will hear about what is being done to improve health literacy in the UK, England and Stoke-on-Trent, and where the focus needs to be directed.

“Health literacy is critical to patient involvement in their care, to patients sharing in decisions about their care, to patients actively self-managing their health,” she said.

“Poor health literacy reinforces health inequalities, but it is one social determinant of health that we can do something about – now – and so we should!

Having spent a year in Adelaide in 2000 with her husband and small children, while her husband worked at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, she recalls happy memories of the family’s visits to Sydney.

After 17 years, this is her first trip back to Sydney.

 Details of the conference are as follows:

Improving health literacy in health systems, partnering with consumers and clinicians

When: Monday 3 December 2018, 8:30am – 4:30pm

Where: The Park Royal Hotel, 30 Phillip street, Parramatta, Sydney, Australia, Map

Parking: On-site self-parking is available at The Park Royal for a flat rate of $15 per day

RSVP: Registrations close Nov 30th 5.30pm; Live-Streaming available – see details below

Enquiries: Dana Mouwad (

Launch Program AND Live Streaming: