Remembering health literacy in National Volunteer Week 2017

  • by Volunteer Hub
  • May 9, 2017

National Volunteer Week is an opportunity to celebrate Volunteers and their role in supporting our community.

A Volunteer Manager recently described his volunteers as bridging the gap between the formal and informal care networks of patients and carers.

At the Westmead Health Literacy Forum last night I was reminded of the importance of that bridging role.

Folk accessing and navigating the health system need to know how to make sense of often complex diagnoses, treatments and medications.

These are known as health literacy skills, the ability to obtain, use and understand information as we access the health care system.

A survey of health literacy amongst Australians published in 2008 showed that just on 60% of the adult population have difficulty in applying these skills.

Lack of skills fuels a lack of confidence. The context in which the information is presented is as important as the style of information itself.

This US report offers 10 pointers that can be adopted by an organisation to be ‘health literate’. How does yours rate?

Palliative Care Volunteers work with diverse communities and people at vulnerable times in their lives. So it’s very likely that supporting poor health literacy is a regular part of the role of a Palliative Care Volunteers.

If you have a story to tell about your role as a Volunteer and your experiences supporting health literacy we’d love to hear from you, please email Ros Bradley on

Thanks for all that you do! And happy National Volunteer Week.

Alex Huntir

Volunteer Support Services Programme, Palliative Care NSW


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