A health literacy intervention to increase parental confidence to manage childhood illness and navigate services

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingPaper published in a conference proceedingspeer-review


The Problem: In the UK there are upward trends in GP consultation rates and Emergency Department (ED) total attendances, for adults and children, particularly 0-4-year olds. Young children often present with self-limiting minor illness. ‘Unnecessary attendance’ has resource implications for services and can be stressful for children and families. Socio-economic deprivation is associated with high GP consultation and ED attendance rates. Parents report anxiety around decisions on how to manage childhood illness and when to seek medical attention.
The Approach: We report an evaluation of health literacy resources implemented in Wessex to support parents to manage minor childhood illness and navigate services. These ‘Healthier Together’ resources consist of a website and paper handouts available in children’s centres or from GPs/health professionals. We conducted 18 semi-structured interviews including a section in which respondents were asked to ‘think aloud’ as they read and navigated the resources. Data were transcribed and subject to thematic analysis.
The Findings: Parents appreciated advice on ‘what to do when’ in cases of minor illness. Some gave examples of things done differently and several anticipated future behaviour
change. Suggestions for improvement included a need to simplify information and website navigation due to heightened parental anxiety when children are ill. Parents felt it was important for health professionals who introduce health resources to communicate in an unrushed and reassuring way. A small number of parents stated they struggled to understand the resources and some refused to participate in the evaluation because they were not confident to discuss ‘medical matters’ or felt their English was not good enough. These participants exhibited characteristics of lower health literacy linked to socio-economic
The Consequences: Health literacy resources offer potential to increase parental confidence to manage minor childhood illness. To address health inequalities, any additional support needs of parents with lower health literacy (for whom standard resources may be insufficient) must be investigated and responded to.
These findings have led to a planned second phase of work to develop a health literacy intervention specifically for socially disadvantaged parents and carers designed to develop their health literacy as an asset that can empower them to care for their children’s and family’s health. The planned work will also be outlined in this presentation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHealth for life: Developing and promoting healthy environments across the life course
Subtitle of host publicationHealth Literacy UK conference
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jun 2020

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