Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Health literacy tests underutilized; may improve elderly cancer patients' care and outcomes

Date:
April 29, 2011
Source:
University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center
Summary:
Low health literacy is a significant barrier to quality care, especially among elderly patients, but increased use of simple and effective health literacy assessment tests by nurses and clinicians can help improve communication and health outcomes.

Low health literacy is a significant barrier to quality care, especially among elderly patients, but increased use of simple and effective health literacy assessment tests by nurses and clinicians can help improve communication and health outcomes.

Related Articles


Several screening tools are available to assess health literacy but they are underutilized, according to a presentation at the 36th Annual Congress of the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) by Ellen C. Mullen, RN, ANP-BC, GNP-BC, nurse practitioner in the Lymphoma and Myeloma Center at The University of MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Further, nurses and other health professionals routinely underestimate the prevalence of limited health literacy -- the degree to which an individual can obtain, process and understand health information needed to make appropriate health decisions -- and overestimate patients' ability to understand medical information.

A 2003 survey by the National Assessment of Adult Literacy showed that 36 percent of American adults overall have limited health literacy. Nearly 60 percent of those over age 65 meet only basic or below-basic health literacy levels.

Previous studies have shown that low health literacy adversely impacts cancer incidence, mortality and quality of life. For example, missed or misunderstood cancer screening information can result in patients being diagnosed at a later, less treatable stage. Treatment decisions may not be fully comprehended and informed consent documents may be too complex, affecting medical decision making. Low health literacy has also been shown to increase hospitalization rates and ER visits, medication errors and health care costs.

According to Mullen, there are several readily available health literacy screening tools, including the Rapid Estimate of Adult Literacy in Medicine (REALM), the Test of Functional Health Literacy in Adults (TOFHLA), the Wide Range Achievement Test (WRAT) and the Newest Vital Signs assessment. The tests take nurses roughly three minutes to perform.

"Health literacy is particularly pertinent for cancer patients and the elderly, who may have hearing or vision problems that further complicate communication," says Mullen. "Cancer patients are bombarded with big terminology and medical information that they may not understand, so they return asking the same questions. Nurses can address this issue if we take the time to assess patients' literacy levels at the first appointment."

Once literacy is assessed, nurses should tailor their communications -- oral and written -- to match the patient's level of understanding. For patients with low literacy, Mullen suggests:

  • Developing written materials below fifth grade reading levels;
  • Keeping content and format simple, with shorter words and sentences;
  • Using larger, boldface or underlined fonts, increasing space between lines and black ink;
  • Having a magnifying glass and good lighting available for older adults;
  • Ensuring patients have assistive devices, such as reading glasses and hearing aids; and
  • Involving a significant other or caregiver.

She also notes that nurses can refer patients to online resources for medical information and community programs that help improve health literacy levels.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. "Health literacy tests underutilized; may improve elderly cancer patients' care and outcomes." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 April 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110429202245.htm>.
University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. (2011, April 29). Health literacy tests underutilized; may improve elderly cancer patients' care and outcomes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 25, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110429202245.htm
University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. "Health literacy tests underutilized; may improve elderly cancer patients' care and outcomes." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110429202245.htm (accessed April 25, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

85 Killed in Niger by Meningitis Since Start of Year

85 Killed in Niger by Meningitis Since Start of Year

AFP (Apr. 24, 2015) A meningitis outbreak in Niger has killed 85 people since the start of the year prompting authorities to close schools in the capital Niamey until Monday. Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
C-Section Births a Trend in Brazil

C-Section Births a Trend in Brazil

AFP (Apr. 24, 2015) More than half of Brazil&apos;s babies are born via cesarean section, as mothers and doctors opt for a faster and less painful experience despite the health risks. Duration: 02:02 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Anti-Malaria Jab Hope

Anti-Malaria Jab Hope

Reuters - News Video Online (Apr. 24, 2015) The world&apos;s first anti-malaria vaccine could get the go-ahead for use in Africa from October if approved by international regulators. Paul Chapman reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
3D Food Printing: The Meal of the Future?

3D Food Printing: The Meal of the Future?

AP (Apr. 23, 2015) Developers of 3D food printing hope the culinary technology will revolutionize the way we cook and eat. (April 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins