Home' Australian Pharmacist : Australian Pharmacist Nov 2013 Contents 54
Australian Pharmacist November 2013 I ©Pharmaceutical Society of Australia Ltd.
1. The World Health Organization
defines health literacy as ‘the
cognitive and social skills which
determine the motivation and
ability of individuals to gain access
to, understand and use information
in ways which promote and
maintain good health’.
2. Some of the barriers that Aboriginal
patients may encounter when
accessing medications include:
c) lack of cultural awareness.
d) All of the above.
3. Pharmacies can improve the health
of local Aboriginal people by:
a) providing education sessions.
b) taking time to talk and listen when
giving information about medications.
c) being culturally aware.
d) All of the above.
4. The life expectancy of Aboriginal
people is 17 years lower than that of
non-indigenous Australians. One of
the possible reasons for this is:
a) a good understanding of a healthy
b) fear of seeking help from culturally
c) free medications.
d) too many culturally appropriate
services and, therefore, too much
Aboriginal clients should be approached
in the pharmacy but with minimal
Ideally, pharmacy staff should all attend
cultural awareness training sessions to
increase their understanding of how best
to interact with Aboriginal patients.
Clear two-way communication
Communication is not just about
speaking. It is also about being
understood by whoever is being spoken
to. For example, if a patient is told to
take a tablet with each meal, they may
interpret that to mean that they must
take one tablet whenever they eat, which
could be 1–5 times a day. Therefore,
providing someone with a statement such
as ‘take this with a meal’, when supplying
a medication, is not necessarily good
In many instances when counselling
about medications occurs, there is an
assumption that the person being spoken
to will clearly understand the meaning
of the words used. Always confirm with a
patient what their understanding is of the
information given: ask them to repeat the
message in their own words.
It is always wise to verbalise the directions
of a new medication as not every
person is able to read and understand
English – and written directions can be
just as ambiguous as spoken ones. For
example: the directions ‘take 24 hourly’
may be interpreted as taking 24 tablets
A private area is ideal for these
discussions as Aboriginal people are often
uncomfortable speaking about their
health problems at the front counter of a
pharmacy. It is essential to speak in a soft
and understanding manner: anecdotally
many Aboriginal people in our area have
felt they were being spoken to in a loud
and superior voice and this creates a
barrier to hearing the information and
acting on it.
There are many Aboriginal specific
information leaflets about medicines
accessible on the internet that will aid
good communication. These can be
1. Stoneman J, Taylor SJ. Improving access to medicines in urban,
regional and rural Aboriginal communities – is expansion of
Section 100 the answer? Rural and Remote Health 2007.7:738.
2. Rockingham Kwinana Division of General Practice. Moorditj
Koort. At: www.rkdgp.com.au/site/index.cfm?display=65670
3. World Health Organisation. Health Promotion. Track Two:
Health literacy and health behaviour. At: www.who.int/
It is important to note that many of
the suggestions in this article are
applicable not only to Aboriginal people.
Many people in our society will be
unwilling to discuss their health issues
in a public place and will have limited
education and limited finances.
Being aware of these issues will help
ensure that every interaction an
Aboriginal person has in your pharmacy
is optimal. In addition, by organising
activities that are specifically aimed at
the Aboriginal population, you will help
to increase their health literacy and
therefore their wellbeing.
Karen Waigana, the centre manager at
Moorditj Koort, believes the following
to be the priorities in relation to health
promotion in the Aboriginal community:
• Ensure the topic is relevant. Ask the
community what they would like to
• Provide catering and transport
• Ensure the sessions are not lengthy
and are interactive.
• Encourage group/family sessions to
provide a unified message.
• Have community people share their
own experiences and learn from each
other – ‘yarning* session’.
*Yarning is telling a story or anecdote.
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