Health Literacy Study Looking for Family Physicians, Practices

Participants Will Test Communications Toolkit

November 14, 2012 06:35 pm Matt Brown

A new AAFP National Research Network (AAFP NRN) and University of Colorado School of Medicine study on health literacy is recruiting primary care practices.

[AAFP National Research Network Logo]

The project, which is funded through the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), will select a diverse group of 12 primary care practices to implement selected parts of AHRQ's Health Literacy Universal Precautions Toolkit(innovations.ahrq.gov) for six months.

According to Angela Brega, Ph.D., the scientific lead on the project and an associate professor at the University of Colorado School of Public Health in Aurora, the toolkit is designed to help guide primary care practices in making office environment changes and implementing strategies for communicating with patients that will improve understanding of health information among patients of all health literacy levels.

"The main goals of the project are to find out how primary care practices use the toolkit, what changes are actually made regarding health literacy in the practice, and how the toolkit can be improved for future use," she said.

Brega said study implementation is scheduled to begin in mid-2013.

"Participating practices will learn valuable skills that can improve patient-provider communication, as well as patient understanding of and ability to manage their health. They will also receive a payment of $3,000 to compensate them for time spent providing information to project researchers."

According to a report from the National Center for Education Statistics(nces.ed.gov) in Washington, 36 percent of U.S. adults have health literacy skills considered inadequate to manage the demands of the U.S. health care system. Limitations are particularly common among people with lower levels of income and education, some racial and ethnic minority groups, individuals for whom English is a second language, and adults age 65 or older.

In a health care setting, patients with limited health literacy may struggle with understanding appointment slips, medication instructions and informed consent documents, Brega said. Poor health literacy also is associated(annals.org) with poor disease knowledge, increased use of inpatient and emergency department care, difficulty managing medications, poor comprehension of labels and instructions, and higher mortality rates.

For more information on the study, contact AAFP NRN project manager Liz Horsley by e-mail or by phone at (800) 274-2237, Ext. 3173.


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