Seminar: Health literacy, clinician language and social determinants of health

Seminar: Health literacy, clinician language and social determinants of health

The ANU Institute for Communication in Health Care presents

Health literacy, clinician language and social determinants of health

A seminar by Professor Jon Jureidini (School of Medicine, University of Adelaide)


Language is critical to the management of chronic illness. One useful approach to improving communication is to enhance the health literacy of patients and families – to make them more familiar with and less intimidated by the language of the medical system. But there are significant constraints at the interpersonal and broader social level on what can be achieved by enhancing health literacy.

At the interpersonal level, being literate about health will benefit patients and families only if they are receiving meaningful explanations; most of the power to improve communication resides with the health practitioner. In society, both provider and recipient operate within an unequal system, navigating social structures that handicap some participants according to social class and disadvantage.

While most clinicians recognise the importance of social determinants of health (SDH), too few regard it as their business to explore and respond to them. Health practitioners can do little to directly impact on social inequality, poverty and disadvantage, but they can consider the impact of their work on the social capital of the families and communities they work with. Clinicians who are mindful of the role of SDH will facilitate families’ capacity to make use of their health literacy.

Biography: Jon Jureidini is a child psychiatrist who also trained in philosophy (PhD, Flinders University), critical appraisal (University of British Columbia) and psychotherapy (Tavistock Clinic). Author of The Illusion of Evidence-Based Medicine: Exposing the crisis of credibility in clinical research (Wakefield Press, 2020), he has a continuing appointment as a professor in the School of Medicine at the University of Adelaide. He heads Adelaide University’s Critical and Ethical Mental Health research group (CEMH), which conducts research, teaching and advocacy to promote safer, more effective and more ethical research and practice in mental health; and the Paediatric Mental Health Training Unit (PMHTU), providing training and support in non-pathologising approaches to primary care mental health. He held senior positions at WCH from 1990 to 2021, where his clinical work included child protection, immigration detention and indigenous mental health in remote areas. He has an international reputation for his work on the evidence-base for psychiatry and is a strong advocate for addressing the social determinants of mental health.

Please RSVP by email if you will attend in-person.


Date & time

Tue 01 Nov 2022, 4.15–5.30pm


Ross Hohnen Room, Ground Floor, Chancelry Building, ANU & Online via Zoom


Updated:  18 October 2022/Responsible Officer:  Head of School/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications