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Supporting self-care through a health literacy approach

Community Development and Health Network (CDHN) is delighted to have been funded by Health and Social Care Board to deliver a new Self-Care Pharmacy project which aims to improve the knowledge and understanding of self-care for minor ailments through a health literacy approach. 

Almost one fifth (18%) of GP workload is for minor ailments that could have been alleviated through self-care costing the NHS over £1.9billion per year.  By reducing spend on treating minor conditions, the money saved in health and social care could potentially be used for other higher priority areas such as cancer or heart disease.  

For people to play an active role in their own health and consider self-care, they need to be health literate. Health literacy is the knowledge, understanding and skills that people need to obtain, process and use health information.   Improving people’s health literacy will improve their health outcomes and, in turn address, health inequalities. CDHN currently delivers Health Literacy training to health professionals as part of its ongoing work.

The Self-Care Pharmacy project has three parts, the first part is a series of collaborative workshops in each of the five Health and Social Care Trust areas. Two events have already taken place with people attending from across community, voluntary and statutory sectors. The concepts of self-care for minor ailments and health literacy were explored at these events where it was clear that there is a need for this work in Northern Ireland.  CDHN will host further workshops in partnership with community and statutory organisations before June 2019. 

Helen McNamee, Project Manager, emphasised why partnership working is important in this project “We know that we don’t have all the answers and working in partnership with different organisations will help us to connect to people in the community and hear about their needs and ideas for solutions.  It is so important to take into account people’s lived experiences when developing work and that is not only the lived experience of those in the communities but also the experience of the people who support them including health and social care professionals.” 

The second part of the project is the delivery of health literacy training to community and voluntary sector leaders and to community groups.  The training for community leaders will be adapted from CDHN’s already successful Health Literacy Communication training for health professionals. There are currently no health literacy training programmes for communities with an emphasis on self care. The training for community leaders will be adapted from CDHN's already successful health literacy communication training for health professionals.

Finally, the most exciting and innovative part of the Self-Care Pharmacy project is design thinking projects which we will be delivering in partnership with Work West.   Design thinking is an approach to solving problems, which allows everybody engaged in the process to be a creative thinker. It is most useful when tackling problems that are ill-defined or unknown – in this case, improving health literacy and increasing people’s capacity to self-care. Design thinking is a really exciting opportunity to get different health professionals and people from the community along with community, voluntary and statutory sector organisations in one room to come up with solutions (Bayer 2018).

For information on forthcoming workshops or if you would like to get involved, please contact Project Manager, Helen McNamee on 028 3026 4606 or by email helenmcnamee@cdhn.org