Survey finds health literacy gap among Saskatchewanians

The Saskatchewan Blue Cross released a survey that reveals that 76 per cent of those living in the province overestimate their level of health literacy. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

A recently released survey by the Saskatchewan Blue Cross shows a health literacy gap among residents of the province.

The survey shows that two in three Saskatchewan residents struggle with their health literacy, but most are not fully aware of the challenges they face.

“We found that there is a Health Literacy Gap in Saskatchewan,” Kelly Wilson, president and CEO of the Saskatchewan Blue Cross, said in a release.

“Overall, respondents reported confidence in their ability to maintain and support their health and the health of those in their care. But questions about specific healthcare experiences revealed that some respondents overstated their level of health literacy, which means they may not fully understand the health challenges they face.”

Some of the key findings in the survey included that 76 per cent of Saskatchewanians who responded overestimate their level of health literacy and those with lower health literacy are less likely to have a positive outlook regarding their health.

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“According to the survey, as a result of barriers to health literacy, 1 in 3 respondents said that they have delayed medical treatment (34 per cent) or been treated incorrectly (32 per cent), and roughly 1 in 4 did not seek help, ask questions or follow through when dealing with a health situation,” the release stated.

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A newly opened nurse practitioner-led clinic, located in Emerald Park, aims to build a rapport and partnership with patients as a way to create health literacy. Nurse practitioner and owner of Vaida Health Ltd. Joelynne Radbourne says the lack of health literacy is not a new topic but has not been addressed in the public eye.

By helping patients build on their knowledge when it comes to their health and building partnerships, the clinic is one step they are taking to improve health literacy.

“Patients don’t understand the health-care system (and) it’s very difficult to navigate the health-care system as a patient,” Radbourne said.

“Creating that rapport, creating that relationship with our patients and identifying right from the start, what is it that you’re coming to see me for and how can I help you with that? I think that is a change that we need to incorporate in all disciplines of medicine, that it’s a patient-directed appointment, not a medical-directed appointment.”

According to a release, in 2020, Saskatchewan Blue Cross refocused its corporate social responsibility approach and Community Investment program towards partnering with organizations across the province that deliver health information and services that foster health literacy skills.

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“Levels of health literacy are not equal across all populations,” the release read. “Communities in heightened need of support towards health literacy include newcomers to Canada, Indigenous communities, young adults and seniors, which is why last year Saskatchewan Blue Cross set out to develop Health Literacy empowering community partnerships supporting these specific groups.”


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