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How is health literacy addressed in primary care? Strategies that general practitioners use to support patients

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Gill Rowlands



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Taylor and Francis, 2018.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


Background: Low health literacy is associated with adverse health outcomes and raised healthcare costs. General practitioners (GPs) are the first point of access to health care services and play a key role in building patients’ health literacy. This study aimed to explore: 1) GPs’ understandings of health literacy, 2) the perceived challenges to addressing health literacy, and 3) the strategies used to support people with health literacy difficulties. Method: A qualitative study in South Western Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Semi-structured qualitative interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Interview data was analyzed using the Framework method, a matrix-based approach to thematic analysis. Results: Eighteen participants took part in the study. Four key themes were identified: 1) identifying patients with health literacy difficulties; 2) perceived consequences of low health literacy; 3) being sensitive to developing health literacy skills and; 4) strategies used to build health literacy. Intuitive skills were used to identify patient’s health literacy skills through recurring encounters with patients over time. A range of communication techniques were used to build health literacy. The value of a long-term relationship with patients, and support from relatives, seem to be important in helping patients to build their health literacy skills.Conclusions: A number of barriers may hinder building patient health literacy in general practice. An increased focus on the significance of health literacy, educationally and clinically across the entire health system can be a solution to overcome these barriers.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Lausen LH, Smith SK, Cai A, Meiser B, Yanes T, Ahmad R, Rowlands G

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Communication in Healthcare

Year: 2018

Volume: 11

Issue: 4

Pages: 278-287

Online publication date: 08/10/2018

Acceptance date: 01/10/2018

Date deposited: 16/10/2018

ISSN (print): 1753-8068

ISSN (electronic): 1753-8076

Publisher: Taylor and Francis


DOI: 10.1080/17538068.2018.1531477


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