Lung disease patients have low health literacy

People with asthma have the lowest overall health literacy according to a national health survey conducted by Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

Alongside people with mental health and behaviour problems, those with asthma indicated they struggled more with managing their health and engaging with healthcare providers than people with other chronic health conditions.

Just 12.3% of people with asthma said they were able to actively manage their own health, and only 5.4% felt understood and supported by healthcare providers.

By comparison, 25% of people overall strongly agreed that they felt socially supported in managing their health, and 33% of people always found it easy to actively engage with healthcare providers.

“This data calls for consideration of how complex different diseases are for people in the community,” said Swinburne University Professor of Health Sciences Richard Osborne, who developed the survey tool.

“It seems that while the information needs of people with cancer, diabetes and heart disease are high, there are larger gaps for people with chronic lung conditions,” said Professor Osborne.

“Findings from this survey point out that the average health literacy of people with both chronic obstructive pulmonary disease/asthma is at the lower end for each of the nine health literacy indicators, when compared with the general population. The data points out that for many people they just can’t find the information they need,” he added

The findings from the comprehensive National Health Survey: Health Literacy, 2018,  also showed that just over a quarter (26%) of people found it always easy to navigate the healthcare system, but rates were lower for people who reported very high levels of psychological distress (17%).

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