Health TV

Health TV is an independent television network for medical centre waiting rooms. It provides health information to help Kiwis and their whānau get the most out of their medical appointments.

Promoting health literacy to patients

Individuals and whānau face a series of demands on their health literacy when navigating their way through the health system. These demands impact on their ability to access health information, care and services.

There is a need for a stronger focus on how health systems, healthcare providers and practitioners can support people to access care, manage and maintain their own health and wellbeing.

A health literate organisation makes health literacy a priority and integral to quality service improvement. It makes health literacy part of all aspects of its service planning, design, delivery and performance evaluation.

Why does health literacy matter? 

Health literacy is about improving understanding of health information so that health messages can be understood and, hopefully, acted on. 

International research shows a strong link between consumers' level of health literacy and their health status. There are also links between health literacy and health inequalities. 

This is because low health literacy may translate to practical difficulties such as: 

  • trouble understanding appointment letters
  • difficulty filling in forms
  • not understanding doctors’ directions
  • being at a disadvantage when providing consent
  • misinterpreting medication instructions
  • challenges understanding educational resources
  • being deterred from negotiating complex healthcare systems. 

How does Health TV contribute to health literacy?

Health TV was launched in 2007 in medical centres and hospital waiting rooms around the country with the vision of having a major impact on patient’s lives, through health-related education.

This was built on the notion that patients are more receptive to receiving health information and acting immediately on it when they are waiting to see their health professional.

Over the past 7 years this theory has been tested and evaluated through independent patient research, health programme case studies and GP surveys.

(Health TV, NZ, 2016)

What does the research about Health TV say?

Health TV contracted The Nielsen Research Company to undertake research into its effects. They surveyed 2,261 patients across 23 medical centres in Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Hutt Valley, Porirua, Wellington and Christchurch.

The feedback included that patients watch Health TV and find it a good way to learn about health and wellbeing:

  • 74% say that wait times feels shorter.
  • 79% agree or strongly agree that Health TV enhances the waiting experience.
  • 89% say that Health TV shows that the medical centre is modern and up-to-date.

Watching Health TV has led to patient action, including increases in patient-generated inquiries:

  • about health services and programmes
  • to online self-help services
  • about general health questions.

What do general practices say about Health TV?

“We recently installed two Health TVs in the reception areas of our practice. The TVs have been extremely well received by our patients, providing educational health information as well as entertainment to keep the patients engaged while they are waiting. We have included 20 of our own messages in the Headline News that streams across the bottom of the screen to convey the health messages we want to deliver. The process of installation was seamless with Ian Baker always providing responsive and excellent back up service. We highly recommend Health TV as an excellent addition to improve your patients waiting room experience.” 

Leigh Kennedy, Practice Manager, Fifth Avenue Family Practice, Tauranga

“I have observed people really engaged/captured by the videos, particularly the literacy and entertainment videos. I have heard some people talking to reception staff about some of the content and they only sounded positive. Staff have also been captured by a couple of entertainment videos. Overall, it’s a great resource well invested into for the clinic and patients as they wait.”

Drew Hewett, Practice Operations Manager, Otara Whanau Medical Centre

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Health TV


  1. Health literacy Health Navigator NZ, 2018
  2. About health literacy Health Literacy NZ
  3. Health literacy review – a guide Ministry of Health, NZ, 2015
Credits: Health Navigator Editorial Team.