Mental Health Communications: Keeping Digital Health Literacy Front of Mind

By James Osborn, Director, AXON Communications, a SHIFT sister agency

Read our full Mental Health Communications blog series here.

This year, most of us have relied on technology more than ever. At no other point in our lives has our personal experience of work, social interaction and medical care existed so completely in the digital space.

For some people, the practicality of this shift was quite seamless. Those working in more complex office jobs who spend hours each day using a computer, Face-Timing friends and consuming most of their news online adapted quickly to the greater use of familiar digital tools.

Almost everyone felt lonely, isolated or anxious during the first weeks of lockdown. Many were plunged into a completely alien existence. They were unfamiliar with technology. They could not do their work outside the home. The option to seek help and support in person — from a relative, friend or health professional — was suddenly removed.

Many of those affected in this way have low levels of health literacy. That is the degree to which individuals have the ability to find, understand and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others. The barrage of information around a fast-moving pandemic — much of it contradictory, heavily scientific, or based on false truths — was incredibly difficult to navigate. Even those with a ‘critical’ level of health literacy, meaning they can easily take information from multiple sources and apply the relevant aspects to themselves, struggled to keep up.

At the time of most need, a considerable amount of primary care and mental health services moved predominantly online.

With further societal restrictions and lockdowns to come, the ripple effect of coronavirus continues. Digital platforms will continue to play a wholly dominant role in most aspects of our lives. Information overload shows no sign of waning.

This means clarity of and trust in communication will become more vital than ever. The pharma sector as well as other digital health companies are well placed to provide people with meaningful information and support. However, to truly make a difference to those who need the most help, the healthcare industry must keep health literacy considerations front of mind.

If you are working in this area and want to discuss your health tech brand and how we can help you to shape and communicate a compelling and credible story, please check out our work and get in touch.

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