Over four out of 10 adults in Australia find it difficult to read and understand important information about medicines. Using plain language, better layout and more images can help, according to Jo Medlin, President of the Council for Adult Literacy.
Literacy is measured in five levels by the Australian Core Skills Framework. Over four out of 10 adults have a literacy level of two or lower, meaning they are unable to read many everyday texts. Over 80% have a literacy level of three or lower and will have difficulty understanding medical terms and more complex medicine instructions.
“Just think of all of the things you have read since you got up this morning,” Ms Medlin said in a keynote at the recent National Medicine Symposium.
“People who have difficulties reading are not able to access the same information as those that can. This can impact people’s health if they are not able to take medicines properly or understand what they need to do to stay well.
“Low literacy can have many causes. It is important to remember that it is not the person’s fault. It could be due to schooling gaps, an undetected physical issue like seeing or hearing difficulties, or behavioural issues.
“The stigma around difficulties reading mean that it is hard for people to seek help, just making the problem worse and long-lasting.”
She said people with low literacy should not be described as illiterate or innumerate. They have “unmet literacy needs or have literacy or numeracy gaps”.