Action to address health literacy, equity in social housing, Victoria

The Centre for Global Health and Equity partnered with Lead Providers of the High-Risk Accommodation Response (HRAR) program of Victoria’s Department of Family, Fairness and Housing with the aim to gain a deep understanding of the experiences of people living in HRAR accommodation settings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This project aimed to develop a nuanced and granular understanding of the needs and experiences of people residing in social housing settings (including public and community housing) during the COVID-19 pandemic. The aim was to optimise communications and engagement with these communities in activities for COVID-19 prevention and safety.

Community health lead providers in Victoria – Connect Health and Community, Star Health, Merri Health, Peninsula Health and Bendigo Community Health Services – partnered with Centre for Global Health and Equity to undertake real-time research to inform service provision, communication and engagement during the pandemic.

By applying the Ophelia (Optimising Health Literacy and Access) process, the research partnership gave a voice to 865 residents living in public and community housing, rooming houses, caravan parks, supported residential services, disability services and homeless hotels. The research process mapped what residents knew and thought about COVID-19 and COVID-19 vaccination. It also revealed profound diversity in people’s circumstances, thereby identifying the services and support required to optimise their safety and equity of access to services and information.

Using an action learning research approach, these data were iteratively synthesised to uncover existing local innovation and new ways to improve engagement with individual residents, health workers and organisations.

Ongoing and rapid cycles of data collection, synthesis and sense-making discussions led to numerous practical service innovations and improvements. These multi-level innovations were systematically collated to formulate recommendations to guide service development (co-design), as well as future practice and policy responses to public health emergencies. The diversity across the five Lead Providers' catchment areas, the rigorous incremental validation of the study’s data, and co-designed service innovations mean the study’s outcomes can be readily taken up across Victoria.

The study is led by Dr Shandell Elmer and the research team includes Professor Richard Osborne, Dr Christina Cheng and Mr Ranjit Gajendra Nadarajah of the Centre for Global Health and Equity, Dr Hilary Davis of the Social Innovation Research Institute, Professor Rachael McDonald (Director, MedTechVic) and Professor Dean Lusher of the Centre for Transformative Innovation.

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