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27 June 2012

Health literacy and PHARMAC's Māori Health Team

I had a conversation about health literacy with Marama Parore, Manager of the Māori Health Team Te Whaioranga at PHARMAC

Health literacy is about being able to get the healthcare you need, in your own social context and your own community, so the people giving information and the people hearing or reading it understand each other.

Marama says that understanding health literacy underpins everything that PHARMAC’s Māori Health Team does in their work with Māori and Pacific communities.

‘PHARMAC’s programmes are a mix of art and science’, she says. ‘We are strengthening the cultural competency of cardiovascular nurses to work side-by-side with communities — nurses use enabling language only, they make no assumptions about people’s literacy, and they make no judgments. They value people where they are.’

Programmes build awareness and action
PHARMAC’s programmes develop their own momentum. One Heart Many Lives has led to Ironmāori. It’s a 2km swim, 90km cycle, and 21.1km run held at Pandora Pond in Napier. This year’s Ironmāori Half Ironman event was booked out in eight minutes, and next December 2000 people will line up to compete — they are managing their own health.

The Māori Health Team’s goal for PHARMAC’s community programmes goes beyond the first step. One Heart Many Lives, for example, began as an awareness-raising campaign in 2003, because communities were losing their kaumātua too young.

One Heart Many Lives was a way of encouraging people to get their hearts checked or enrol in screening programmes for cancer. Marama’s team made it easy for people to get on a track that leads to desirable actions — get their hearts checked, take medication, tell others, be a role model. Now Marama is seeing people use their knowledge to influence others.

Technology spreads the messages
Marama is quick to recognise that technology can spread PHARMAC’s health messages. PHARMAC develops tools and resources that support people to get the healthcare they need. ‘We’re using bright, shiny, new things like apps, underpinned by the fundamental principles of health literacy’, she says. ‘These tools and resources lead people to manage their own health and increase their knowledge. The messages get close to people and connect with them.’

— Rosemary Knight

Go to our website for links to more blogs about health literacy

Read about our workshop Writing Health Information Clearly


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