Health Literacy: What does it have to do with our work?

Ms Cathy Basterfield1

1Access Easy English Pty Ltd, Mentone East, Australia


“Health literacy is important …. Low levels of individual health literacy contribute to poorer health outcomes, increased risk of an adverse event and higher healthcare costs.” (National Statement On Health Literacy, 2014.) It states healthcare providers need to  ‘Assume that most people will have difficulty understanding and applying complex health information and concepts.’ It also goes on to say organisations that support healthcare providers need to ‘collaborate … including sharing strategies‘ ….

This paper will share how Easy English applies to the work of speech pathologists and other allied health practitioners in providing written information in a way our clients and families can read, understand and use meaningfully.


To initiate a discussion about the literacy skills of the wide range of people in the Australian community, many being our clients and the impact this has on their allied healthcare journey.


Australian literacy skills and abilities were used to determine what the everyday health literacy skills of adult Australians were.

A list of written communication that practitioners provide to   clients was collected. Written communication we are asked to use with our NDIS participants was also collected.


Numerical literacy of which health literacy is a part indicates 53% of the adult Australian population do not have the numerical literacy to manage a range of day to day numerical reading tasks.

Written information in the health domain which use Easy English will be shown to highlight how documents can be more accessible to the people who need them.


This paper will ask you to reflect on your own work practice, and consider what written information must be available in Easy English.


Cathy Basterfield is an experienced Speech Pathologist, with more than 30 years’ experience working with people with Complex Communication Needs. She has been developing, training and advocating for Easy English for more than 17 years.

Cathy was awarded a Victorian Government Ethel Temby scholarship for an investigative study into international trends and accreditation for Easy English writing and publications in 2011.

Cathy was involved in the development of the first guidelines for writing Easy English in Australia. In 2014, the Victorian State Government commissioned her to develop

Easy English: How to comply with the Victorian Government Accessible Communication Guidelines, which is available on their intranet.

Based in Melbourne, Cathy owns and operates Access Easy English. She works across all states in Australia working with government, non government agencies and businesses in their implementation of Easy English.


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