The Irish Cancer Society and the National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) have collaborated to launch a new online health literacy course for healthcare professionals that explores the benefits of good health literacy practice in cancer care.
Ireland’s recent Health Literacy Survey found that nearly one in three people in Ireland have limited health literacy. In practice, this means many patients may struggle with reading, understanding, and using health information to manage their treatment and care.
Cancer health literacy poses a particular set of challenges compared to other types of health literacy.
Cancer patients’ decisions and treatment schedules are often complex, and timely decision-making can be critical.
The distress associated with a cancer diagnosis can further impact patients’ ability to remember, understand, and apply information they need to effectively manage their treatment and care.
In 2021, Irish Cancer Society Support Line and Daffodil Centre nurses received almost 7,500 enquiries relating to cancer treatments and side-effects: over 4,000 on managing symptoms and 1,600 on prognosis.
While many efforts to address health literacy needs have focused on improving patient skills, healthcare professionals have an important role to play. Clear, efficient communication helps cancer patients to understand and make decisions about their treatment and to manage side-effects.
The new self-directed online health literacy course aims to raise awareness of how health literacy issues can affect cancer patients and give an overview of health literacy-friendly communication approaches and tips.
These include the universal precautions approach to health literacy, teachback and tips for writing plain language patient information.