The New Zealand Medical Association has produced a policy briefing on Improving Health Literacy that seeks to promote a shared understanding of what health literacy means, why it is important, and what can be done to improve it.

This is relevant for all healthcare professionals, healthcare managers, as well as policy and decision makers across multiple sectors. It highlights the need for doctors and patients to share decision making, which requires clear communication at all levels

Health literacy is important. Lower levels of health literacy are associated with:

  • increased rates of hospitalisation and greater use of emergency care
  • poorer ability to take medications properly and to interpret labels
  • poorer overall health status and a higher risk of death among older people.

Poor health literacy is a particular issue for disadvantaged and vulnerable groups as it can exacerbate underlying health access and equity issues.

Improving Health Literacy is comprehensive in terms of its recommendations, covering each of the four groups represented in New Zealand's Framework for Health Literacy: the health system, health organisations, health workforce and individuals.