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Ask Me about Health Literacy

Ask Me is a Gold Coast Health initiative to let people know about Health Literacy. We want you to ask us questions about your health and healthcare.

What is Health Literacy?

Health Literacy is hard to define, because it involves many different factors. 

It has been described as how well a person understands health information, and how they use this information to make decisions about their health to take action.

Many factors influence a person’s Health Literacy, such as age, gender, education, language, cultural background, occupation and beliefs. You can see why it might be complicated!

Health Literacy is not a reflection of a person’s intelligence. Health concepts are sometimes difficult to understand and it doesn't matter how much formal education you have received.  For example, someone who is highly educated does not necessarily know a lot about their medical conditions.

Imagine if your car mechanic expected you to know how to take apart your engine and explain what each part was for? It is perfectly normal to not understand health information the first time you hear it or read about it.

For more information, take a look at this informative brochure from the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Healthcare.

What can i do to improve my Health Literacy?

There are a few things you can do to understand information about your health, and your family’s health.

Ask us questions!

The best thing you can do is to ask your health provider questions. If we explain something to you that doesn't make sense, please ask us to repeat it or explain it in a different way. We don't mind how many times we have to explain something, because the important thing is that you understand the information.

Before your healthcare appointment, try taking a few moments to think about questions you might have and write these down so that you feel prepared. If you need help thinking of what to ask, try using this handy question builder.

Everyone learns in different ways – reading, listening, writing down information, watching videos, drawing pictures. Think about how you like to learn and ask your health provider if they can give you the information in a way that suits you.

Drop the Jargon

As health providers, we are specialists in our field, and as sometimes we use many words and phrases that are very specific to healthcare (this is known as jargon). It is our responsibility to use everyday words to explain health concepts to you so that you can understand what you need to do to look after your health.

If we use a medical word that you do not understand, please point this out to your healthcare provider and ask them to explain the word.

Speak up for yourself

Did you know, that many people feel that they should not question their doctor’s advice? If you are having a test, procedure or treatment and you do not understand what is happening or why it is happening, please speak up and ask for more details.

Useful resources to help you learn about your health

General information about health, procedures, tests and treatments

Communicating with your health provider

Australian dietary guidelines

Digital mental health resources

Consumer medicines information (with read-aloud function)

Australian immunisation information

Partnering with Consumers: A guide for consumers

Last updated 21 May 2024