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In an evaluation and review of four ”Health and Wellness Retreats” run by Polio Australia in New South Wales (2010), Victoria (2011), Queensland (2012), and South Australia (2013), all participants were sent a ten-question survey inviting them to self-report on whether the experience had resulted in any improvements in their health literacy and health outcomes.

Like most developed countries, Australia’s population is ageing, resulting in a rise in chronic diseases – which includes the late effects of polio and/or post-polio syndrome. Managing this unprecedented demand on health services depends on people’s ability to access and utilise information appropriately, therefore the need to improve health literacy is paramount.

Polio Australia’s annual Health and Wellness Retreat model was adapted from Polio Health International’s Post-Polio Wellness Retreat held in Warm Springs, USA in 2009. The aim of the Retreats is to provide a holistic approach to managing the late effects of polio and finding life balance, with each day focussing on a different aspect of health and wellness: Body, Mind and Spirit. The Retreats have become a flagship program for Polio Australia, supporting its vision of ensuring that all polio survivors have access to adequate support and information together with comprehensive, consistent health care from a range of well-informed and educated professionals.

The ten “Health Literacy and Health Outcomes” survey questions were based on Professor Don Nutbeam’s conceptual model of ‘health literacy as an asset’. In addition to questions about changed health behaviours and practices, the survey also sought to identify any improvement in people’s capacity to advocate for both themselves and others in relation to getting support to manage the late effects of polio, and their participation in changing social norms and practices such as raising awareness about physical access issues within their communities. The results of this survey provide essential statistical data for use in reports, funding submissions, lobbying government, health related publications, and further research.

Mary-ann Liethof
Graduate Diploma of Education / Diploma of Community Services
National Program Manager, Polio Australia
Victoria, Australia