Sunday, May 22, 2011


In London I gave a taxi driver a sheet of paper with the address of my accomodation. He looked at it for a full two minutes before handing it back and saying, "I can't read that love". Later in a pharmacy, a woman and her adult daughter were contemplating the chocolate bars. The older of the two took a bar and said "this one, this is the slimming one". Her daughter tried in vain to explain that the bar had reduced sugar but that didn't mean it was actively going to make her slim. Mother refused to listen.

Now there's no reason to suspect my taxi driver had health issues. Indeed he seemed to be an extremely fit and healthy man in his 50's, he was also very charming, witty and had a wealth of knowledge. It's possible that even with his literacy issues he has found ways to elicit good understanding from the many and various situations he is in, including health.
And there's no reason to assume the mother was illiterate, she seemed to be reading, but she had possibly taken information and skewed it according to her own understanding, her own experience, her own desires even.
Who knows really but I just thought I'd throw it out there because on this journey I can't help but see scenarios like these and throw them into the health literacy pot, in the hope that something can cooked up in the end.
London was consolidating in some ways though my learning in the UK is far from over. I travel now in Europe for a bit but will go back to Manchester for the final week of the trip. Health literacy doesn't seem to have taken off in the hospital sector and there seem to be many opinions on that; hospitals are free services and have to stick to their clincial remit, information is produced by other extremely capable organisations so hospitals don't feel a need to do it; health and clinical education in the UK is extremely conservative, heirarchical, clinical so a move to health promotion is a long way off. I'm not entirely convinced and given I have only visited one hospital so far - where the standards and processes for the development of health information and the maintenance of the health information collection is almost entirely driven by risk management and insurance requirements - I shall keep an open mind.
Indeed, for the record, this blog is all unformed (not uninformed); works in progress, observations that really aim to stimulate discussion and to ask any prospective readers to consider some of these issues with me.
More later

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