News November 29, 2023

Two out of three Saskatchewan residents struggle with their health literacy: report

SASKATOON, SK, Nov. 28, 2023 – Saskatchewan Blue Cross, a leading health and wellness solutions provider in the province, released today the findings from a survey investigating residents’ level of health literacy. The study, which measured respondents’ confidence navigating the healthcare system and understanding medical information, among other key areas, found that overall Saskatchewan residents’ reported confidence in their ability to manage their health. But a closer look at the results uncovered a troubling reality.

“We found that there is a Health Literacy Gap in Saskatchewan,” says Kelly Wilson, President and CEO at Saskatchewan Blue Cross. “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.”

Health Literacy is the degree to which individuals can obtain, communicate, process, understand and act upon basic health information and services needed to make health decisions. Leading barriers to health literacy include a lack of familiarity with the healthcare system and what resources are available, as well as lack of access to relevant and credible health information. Lower levels of health literacy can have serious impacts on a person’s health, or that of their family.

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.

Key survey findings:

  • Two in three Saskatchewan residents struggle with their health literacy, but most are not fully aware of the challenges they face.
  • Seventy-six per cent overestimate their level of health literacy.
  • Individuals with lower health literacy are less likely to have a positive outlook regarding their health (64 per cent vs. 83 per cent with high health literacy) and are less confident in their ability to know when they need to seek help for their health (67 per cent vs. 88 per cent).
  • Lower health literacy is also linked with lower confidence in the safe use of medications, including knowing the names of one’s medication and what the medication is for, understanding its warning labels and precautions, and familiarity with potential side effects.
  • While a majority of Saskatchewan residents (53 per cent) feel they are in good health, 3 in 4 deal with ongoing health conditions (71 per cent) or have faced health concerns in the past year (75 per cent), indicating widespread need for health support.

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. Levels of health literacy are not equal across all populations. 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.

“At Saskatchewan Blue Cross, we envision a future where there is equitable access to health and wellness information for everyone,” says Wilson. “And each person in the province understands how to navigate their healthcare effectively to live happy, healthy lives.”

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Media contact:
Cheryl de Villiers
Director, Marketing and External Affairs