Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bringing home the learning

It takes awhile to process a journey like the one I just had. And the processing is constant - every day the penny drops and then it drops again. For a moment I'm certain I have all the answers and then I have another epiphany. I've written so much about how we could apply some of the things that I have learnt - and I do keep coming back to the same themes (which I will talk about a bit later). But it's not so much about the interventions and strategies that we could adopt, it's how to make them fit, to slip smoothly into the many other pressing priorities of a major hospital - this is the challenge.
While I was travelling, my focus was really about how to build the health literacy of a hospital. Especially one that isn't necessarily central to its geographical community. The big hospitals that have patients across a city, or a state. Hospitals that specialise in a population (women, children) or a set of diseases (cancer); hospitals that are "leaders" or "advocates" but not necessarily strongly linked with their local library, adult education provider or language centre. I set out to learn about how I could support my organisation to become more health literate in a way that was sustainable and useful and aligned to the business, reputation and standing of the hospital in the broader community.
So after two months of mulling it over, what are the key themes that I keep returning to? Collaboration, partnerships, capacity building in staff (training and access to information about health literacy) and good patient engagement. My view is that once all of that is working and working well, then good patient "information" and communication will follow. And whether you are a hospital in a tiny rural community or a major teaching hospital with a statewide focus the models for engagement and communication should be evaluated and written up to be adapted and replicated anywhere.
we are currently piloting an engagement project with young women - to inform our work on health literacy barriers for that population.
More on that later.