How can I make healthier choices

Health literacy: making healthy decisions easier

Kick-off for a coordinated collaboration to strengthen health literacy within the framework of target management for health

Vienna (OTS) - The federal, state and social security organizations are pulling together to strengthen the health literacy of the Austrian population. On September 23, 2015, representatives of the three partners of the health reform as well as the Ministry of Education and Social Affairs presented the Austrian Platform for Health Competence (ÖPGK) at a conference. The aim of the platform is to bundle effective measures throughout Austria and to support their implementation.

At its first conference, the ÖPGK presented European initiatives and examples of "good practice" from Austria. The projects "Health Competence Coaching in Social Insurance Institutions", "Further Development of Conversation Quality in Patient Care", "Video Interpreting in Health Care" and "Advice and Training Offers for Caring Relatives" were presented.

What is health literacy?

Many decisions that we make in everyday life influence our health: whether in the event of illness, when shopping for groceries every day, at work or during leisure activities. Health literacy describes the ability of a person to find, understand and assess health-related information and ultimately to translate it into "health-effective" action.

In addition to personal knowledge, health literacy also depends to a large extent on the quality and comprehensibility of health information that is offered to citizens in Austria: for example in hospitals, when visiting a doctor, by health promotion institutions. Media or advertising also provide information that influences health decisions.

Why is health literacy so important

The data show us that the health literacy of the Austrian population is not doing particularly well. The problem behind this is that poor health literacy has negative consequences. A lack of health literacy is related, among other things, to less participation in preventive measures, poorer health behavior, poorer management of chronic diseases, more inpatient admissions and more sick leave due to illness.

Health literacy as a health goal

One of the 10 framework health goals is "Strengthening the health literacy of the population". A bundle of measures is now intended to help improve health literacy and thus the health of the Austrian population. Special emphasis is placed on supporting vulnerable groups such as the elderly, the socio-economically disadvantaged, the chronically ill or women and men with disabilities. For these groups, finding their way around the health system is often a particular challenge due to their specific needs and problems.

Establishment of the ÖPGK

In December 2014 the Federal Health Commission (BGK) decided to "establish the Austrian Platform for Health Competence (ÖPGK)". The Healthy Austria Fund was entrusted with the nationwide coordination of the platform.

The new platform for health literacy is intended to promote cooperation between the actors involved from different political and social areas. The partners of the federal target management - the federal government, the federal states and social insurance - as well as the education and social department see themselves as a motor for strengthening the health literacy of the population. The coordination office in the Healthy Austria Fund is the service point, hub and knowledge center of the ÖPGK. The ÖPGK wants to gain members in the next few months. Members are organizations that implement measures to promote health literacy.

Statements on the ÖPGK

"Strengthening health literacy makes it easier for people to perceive their role as self-determined partners in the health system. Central to the patient-oriented design of the health system is both the communicative competence of health service providers and the understandable processing of information in health facilities. But that too." The system itself has to become "health literate", explains Federal Minister Sabine Oberhauser.

"It's about making the worlds of life and the health system more understandable, strengthening the skills of patients and optimizing products and services with regard to health literacy. We are pursuing a strategy on two levels. We try to provide the insured with targeted offers to promote the competence of the individual. The second starting point is to design information and processes in such a way that they are more easily understood by those affected. The involvement of those affected is an essential success factor. We have to connect to the realities of people and the systems design in such a way that they are understood. Together we want to take appropriate initiatives ", says Mag. Peter McDonald, Chairman of the Board of the Main Association of Austrian Social Insurance Institutions.

For Federal Minister Rudolf Hundstorfer, social affairs and health are two cross-sectional issues that can hardly be separated in reality. The ÖPGK promotes the networking of both topics and from the point of view of the Ministry of Social Affairs that is the particular added value.

The federal states acknowledge the importance of the implementation of the framework health goal "Strengthening the health literacy of the population" and thus to the establishment of the ÖPGK. To ensure that this topic continues to be promoted in a coordinated and quality-assured manner, the federal states are actively involved in control and implementation. "It is important to us to strengthen the individual competence of citizens in health-related decisions and in dealing with illnesses. This should begin in kindergarten and school," says LH Josef Pühringer as chairman of the governor's conference. In later life, when it comes to strengthening health literacy, the focus must be primarily on the chronically ill, the elderly and the socio-economically disadvantaged, but also on specific groups of people such as caring relatives. On the other hand, we want to support the health staff in their considerations to increase the health literacy of the patients. The federal states are also involved in this process by participating in the ÖPGK, so that the most targeted measures can be continued or initiated. The Austrians should be increasingly empowered to make individual decisions with regard to their health and, above all, be supported by the health professionals.

Inquiries & contact:

Coordination office of the Austrian platform
Health literacy (ÖPGK)
Fonds Gesundes Österreich - a division of
Health Austria GmbH
Mag.a Dr Edith Flaschberger
Aspernbrückengasse 2, 1020 Vienna
Tel .: +43 1 89 50 400-50
[email protected]

Federal Ministry of Health
Mag.a Raphaela Pammer, press officer
Radetzkystraße 2, 1030 Vienna
Tel .: + 43/1 / 71100-4505
[email protected]
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Main Association of Austrian Social Insurance Institutions
Dieter Holzweber
Kundmanngasse 21, 1030 Vienna
Tel. 01/711 32-1122
[email protected]

Province of Upper Austria
Mag.a Karin Weichselbaumer
Press Officer, Governor Dr. Josef Pühringer
Landhausplatz 1, 4021 Linz
Tel .: 0732/77 20-11106
karin. [email protected]