Public health experts from Swinburne University of Technology will see Australian research implemented throughout fifteen European countries as a part of the world’s largest health literacy program.
Swinburne’s Centre for Global Health and Equity researchers, Distinguished Professor Richard Osborne and Senior Research Fellow Dr Melanie Hawkins, developed the Ophelia process which focuses on optimising health literacy and access. This can be used as a practical tool to effectively deliver health literacy and health systems improvement programs, with a focus on equity.
Ophelia improves health outcomes through authentic community consultation, meaningful engagement and collaboration.
Initially developed through Australian Research Council (ARC) and National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) funding, Ophelia was tested in over twenty project settings before being adopted for broad use across Europe.
Distinguished Professor Richard Osborne said, “the mainstream adoption of Ophelia will help improve health outcomes in fifteen European countries and twenty-five projects. We are proud to have built something so impactful.
“This European Union program is important because it is the largest health literacy initiative in the world. It will apply the Ophelia co-design process, working with community members, government and health professionals, to reduce inequality and improve lives.”
New four-year program to reach millions
The announcement was made as a part of a new four-year program funded by the European Commission, called the Joint Action on Cardiovascular Diseases and Diabetes (JACARDI).
Launched in Rome in November 2023, the initiative engages governments, public health bodies, non-governmental organisations and universities to assist European Union countries to reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and their associated risk factors.
Professor Osborne and Dr Hawkins have been commissioned by the French national public health agency, Santé publique France, to co-lead the work on health literacy via the Ophelia process over the next four years.
Dr Melanie Hawkins is excited to improve health literacy on an unprecedented scale across Europe.
“While we have successfully implemented many projects in Australia and internationally, I am excited to bring our expertise in health literacy and co-design to JACARDI to improve the lives of millions of Europeans,” Dr Hawkins said.
“This represents a significant step forward in the fight against cardiovascular disease and diabetes.”
Professor Osborne, Dr Hawkins and their team have already assisted the World Health Organization (WHO) to develop health literacy programs. Their work has been recommended in WHO’s 2022 report Health Literacy Development for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases.
One of WHO’s case studies is BreastScreen Victoria’s Ophelia, which produced a tenfold increase in Arabic and Italian speaking women booking a screening appointment.
JACARDI is coordinated by the Italian National Institute of Health and has received €53 million ($86.5 million AUD) to bring together twenty-one European countries, with seventy-six partner organisations and over 300 public health experts.