Home' Australian Pharmacist : Australian Pharmacist May 2016 Contents Australian Pharmacist May 2016 I ©Pharmaceutical Society of Australia Ltd.
Pharmacists play a key role in the safe and effective use of medicines.
An important, and often overlooked, influence on how medicines are used is
the health literacy of consumers. Health literacy is described as 'how people
understand information about health and health care, and how they apply
that information to their lives, use it to make decisions and act on it'.1
Health literacy comprises two
components: individual health literacy
related to skills, knowledge, motivation
and capacity of individual consumers,
and the health literacy environment
related to features of the health system.
It is estimated that almost 60% of
Australian adults do not have a level
of individual health literacy adequate
to meet the complex demands of
everyday life.2 Low individual health
literacy is associated with poorer health
status, worse outcomes, higher use
of health services, increased cost to
health care system, and premature
death.3 It is estimated that people with
low individual health literacy are up to
three times more likely to experience an
Improving health literacy is thought
to minimise barriers to safe and
high-quality healthcare, improve
health outcomes, and reduce
disparities and inequities in health.
Effective communication is a key
strategy in improving health literacy.1
All members of the healthcare team
play a role in addressing health
literacy. Pharmacists as 'medicines
expert' are especially well placed to
improve consumer understanding
of the medicines they are using and
how to take them to ensure optimum
outcomes. Provision of medicines
information that is understandable
and accessible can improve people's
knowledge, understanding and ability
to implement treatments.
While there are many quality resources
available to assist with communicating
medicines information, including
Consumer Medicines Information, the
Australian Medicines Handbook and NPS
MedicineWise there are times when
these are not appropriate.
What resources are available when
English is not a first language, people
have limited literacy, there are
differences in belief systems around
disease causation, or there are no
pharmacists to assist with the provision
of medicines information?
These are challenges that health workers
in remote Indigenous communities
grapple with daily. Assisting them
to overcome these challenges is the
Medicines Book for Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners
and Health Workers (Medicines Book).5
The Medicines Book is a communication
tool that provides accessible education
about medicines by summarising
the most important and relevant
information and incorporating a
pictorial format that is easily understood
at a basic literary level. The Medicines
Book is part of a suite of Remote Primary
Health Care Manuals (RPHCM) that are
grounded in evidence-based practice
and the practicalities of the remote
context. There is extensive input from
Medicines Book: a
BY TOBIAS SPEARE
remote health professionals, including
Aboriginal Health Practitioners, to
ensure the Medicines Book is relevant,
effective and culturally appropriate.
While it was developed specifically
for remote and Indigenous practice it
is relevant and appropriate for other
settings where literacy or language are
barriers to communication, and is freely
accessible on the RPHCM website:
Effective communication in regard
to treatment decisions is vital in
ensuring good health. The use of
communication tools, such as the
Medicines Book, can greatly assist the
1. Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health
Care. Health literacy: Taking action to improve safety and
quality. Sydney: Australian Commission on Safety and
Quality in Health Care, 2014.
2. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Health Literacy, Australia.
Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2008.
3. Berkman ND, Sheridan SL, Donahue KE, Halpern DJ,
Viera A, Crotty K, et al. Health literacy interventions and
outcomes: an updated systematic review. Evidence report/
technology assessment. 2011 Mar(199):1-941. PubMed
PMID: 23126607. Pubmed Central PMCID: Pmc4781058.
Epub 2011/03/01. eng.
4. Dewalt DA, Berkman ND, Sheridan S, Lohr KN, Pignone
MP. Literacy and health outcomes: a systematic review of
the literature. Journal of general internal medicine. 2004
Dec;19(12):1228-39. PubMed PMID: 15610334. Pubmed
Central PMCID: Pmc1492599. Epub 2004/12/22. eng.
5. Centre for Remote Health. Medicines Book for Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners and Workers
(3rd edition). 3 ed. Alice Springs: Centre for Remote Health;
Tobias Speare is Pharmacist Academic, Centre for
Remote Health, Alice Springs.
Links Archive Australian Pharmacist April 2016 Australian Pharmacist June 2016 Navigation Previous Page Next Page