Building health literacy in older Australians

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LiveUp is supporting rural and remote health professionals to increase their efficiency, maximise their reach and build resilient communities.

There are 4.2 million Australians aged 65 or older; one in three live in rural or remote areas. Our ageing population brings particular challenges and opportunities to an already stretched rural health workforce.

Improving the health literacy of older people, and their families and carers, could significantly impact both the effectiveness and efficiency of health professionals and service providers in their day-to-day work. By enhancing health literacy, positive behaviour change is more likely, significantly improving a person’s ageing journey. In turn, this maximises and maintains a person’s independence and progressively reduces their reliance on health and community services.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners reports that approximately one in five patients today are presenting for non-clinical reasons. The opportunity to engage older patients in preventive health initiatives, by increasing health literacy, could substantially reduce demand and increase the accessibility of general practitioner (GP) services in rural and remote areas.

Increasing interprofessional collaboration between health professionals in the promotion of preventive services, some of which are available online, is also encouraged. Working together, GPs, nurses, pharmacists and allied health professionals can explore and implement new models of practice such as ‘wellness and reablement’ or ‘social prescribing’. Both are preventive health models that have the capacity to dramatically change the way services are delivered, while progressively reducing reliance on primary healthcare services.

Importantly, by expanding the use of technology, telehealth can provide and increase access to health care, regardless of geographical location. Digital health technologies can help build health literacy and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of healthcare delivery. This could help bridge the gap in healthcare access between rural and urban areas.

LiveUp is a digital response to health prevention for older people in Australia. Launched in February last year, this free healthy-ageing website is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care and powered by not-for-profit organisation, iLA.

LiveUp has been designed to provide impartial information and advice to older people in Australia on staying active, independent and connected to their communities.

LiveUp is evidence based, having been built on a wellness and reablement model and behaviour-change methodology. It is increasingly being used by health professionals and service providers across Australia to build health literacy in their patients and clients, to source social activities that could support an informal approach to social prescribing, as well as to help manage their waiting lists. This user-friendly resource can be provided directly to older people, who can then explore a range of options themselves and start taking control of their healthy-ageing journey.

Health professionals can also informally refer or encourage older people to call LiveUp’s navigation service (freecall 1800 951 971) to speak with a ‘real person’ who can support them to find personalised and localised information on exercises, community groups and activities, and assistive products. Information packs can then be mailed or emailed.

If signs of age-related functional decline are identified, a more in-depth self-assessment called the LifeCurveTM can be completed with them. Check-ins can also be booked, with follow-up calls to monitor progress and offer additional support. All free and confidential.

To find out more, health professionals and service providers can contact the LiveUp community engagement team. Presentations to teams and networks are also available, along with information and resource packs. Contact [email protected] or go direct to the website at liveup.org.au

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