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Martin Witt 2007


The aim of this thesis is to clarify the concept of health literacy and its relevance to the production of health promotion resources for disadvantaged groups, considering perspectives of both health promotion practitioners and consumers in the context of expert views on production of material.
A literature review establishes its relevance to the determinants of health, health promotion, individual empowerment and health inequalities. An analysis of the Cancer Society's resource production process provides an organisational context for the study of specific nutrition and physical activity resource materials.

The perspectives of both producers and consumers of health resources are examined through a postal survey of health promoters in non government organisations and focus groups in socio-economically disadvantaged communities in Christchurch. The survey found less than half of health promoter respondents were aware of the term health literacy, but the principles that underpin health literacy are well understood and practiced by them.
These principles are also reflected in comments made by consumers in the focus groups, who provide a consumer perspective on health information, focusing on health promotion material produced by the Cancer Society.
Respondents prefer health information to be in simple and accessible formats, including plain English and graphics.

The implications of the findings of the survey of health promoters and focus groups with consumers are discussed at several levels: government policy, in health promotion organisations, and through an understanding of the link between the producers and consumers of health messages. The role of the health promoter intervening at different levels to help address both the causes and symptoms of poor health literacy are also discussed.

The study recommends ways in which awareness of health literacy might be raised and in particular how the issue of poor population health literacy levels might be addressed. In a society increasingly reliant on individuals taking responsibility for their own health, it is argued that good health literacy skills are an essential requirement for everyday life and well being.

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