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Health literacy and interpretation: An issue of cultural competence

Francesca Gany, MD, Alexis Rourk, BA, Ephraim A Shapiro, MPA, and Abraham Aragones, MD. NYU School of Medicine, Center for Immigrant Health, 550 First Avenue, New York, NY 10016, (212) 263-8265, alexis.rourk@med.nyu.edu

Introduction: Patient levels of health literacy can have significant impact upon their health. Specifically, patients' abilities to understand and follow providers' instructions, understand test results and/or other medical procedures, and effectively utilize available services that can vary with health literacy levels. In this study, we assessed patientsí understanding of discharge instructions as well as medical outcomes as they differ between levels of health literacy. Methods: Emergent and urgent care patients in an urban public hospital were recruited into a study to assess their understanding of discharge instructions. Primary care clinic patients were also recruited as part of the same study. Following analysis of patient levels of understanding and health status indicators, results were compared against patient health literacy levels, as measured by the use of a short set of questions used in other studies. Results: A relationship was found between health literacy and health outcomes. There appear to be interaction factors between written literacy and understanding of oral communications, including use of an interpreter. The impact of health literacy varies by certain demographic characteristics, including primary language, country of birth, acculturation level, and English speaking ability. Conclusion: Results suggest a relationship between health measures and health literacy levels, indicating that more extensive assessment of health literacy levels of patients is warranted. This issue can be addressed through changes made in patient care procedures, including the development of health literacy programs and appropriate materials being made available to patients.

Learning Objectives:

Keywords: Health Literacy, Cultural Competency

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

Innovative and Collaborative Health Literacy Initiatives in New York City

The 132nd Annual Meeting (November 6-10, 2004) of APHA