Studies show that individuals with poor health literacy take part in fewer health-promoting and prevention activities, have a lower state of health and are at a higher risk of mortality.
“These people often find themselves in a vicious circle of unemployment, poverty and health problems,” says Project Coordinator Gloria Sagmeister from Die Kärntner Volkshochschulen, Austria.
“Hence Alpha-Power project aimed to train members of Carinthian health facilities to become multipliers who are able to support illiterate individuals,” she continues.
Sensitized to illiteracy
Marco Strempfl is an employee in the department of health promotion at the Carinthian Health Insurance Carrier. He was one of the participants of the project.
“It was very surprising for me that in Austria, a country with a good education system, there is still such a large number of people who can’t read and write properly. Therefore it was obvious for me that I wanted to know more about the subject.”
The project helped Mr. Strempfl to understand the needs and problems of illiterate people better and to react properly in order to help them facing everyday problems.
“It is challenging to talk to people about their reading and writing problems and to give them the feeling that there is nothing to be ashamed of at the same time.”
Most important insight the project provided for Mr. Strempfl was that he can help people to help themselves.
“Because of the project I am able to empower people by encouraging them to get assistance from organisations like the VHS.”
Doubling the goals
Project partners were satisfied with the success of Alpha-Power.
“During the 13 months the project was running, the purpose was to train at least 45 health experts. By the end of the project, the presentation had been given to a total of 103 people,” says Ms. Sagmeister.
The differences between professional groups brought challenges for the project partners.
“The participants had different organisational and infrastructural conditions. In particular, it was difficult to reach physicians. So we planned a workshop especially for this target group.”
But working with a variety of professionals was also the most enjoyable part for Project Coordinator Sagmeister:
“I consider the process of designing and the implementing workshops for different groups and different health care organisations as the best part of the project.”
Alpha Power project
Every year, EAEA hands out the EAEA Grundtvig Award to successful projects in adult education. In 2015, three projects were awarded with a prize: an international, a European and a national initiative. The theme of this year’s award was Adult Education and Health.
Text: Aura VuorenrinnePhotos: Aura Vuorenrinne