Media Release: Dayton Children’s doctor to present health literacy studies at upcoming conference

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10-06-2011 (Dayton, OH) -

A physician and researcher from Dayton Children’s has been chosen to present posters at this year’s Boston University Medical Campus Health Literacy Research Conference on Oct. 17 and 18 at Northwestern University in Chicago.

Dr. Shalini Forbis, from the Children’s Health Clinic and Wright State University, will be presenting two studies aimed at helping providers overcome communication barriers in practices that work with underserved populations, where illiteracy rates are often high, possibly near 40 percent, Forbis said.

Illiteracy tends to correlate directly with low health literacy, which is the ability to understand things like medication instructions, health consent forms and medical education brochures.

Four pediatric practices in the Dayton area took part in the research. One study recorded the physicians, nurses and staff to track their usage of things like plain language versus medical jargon and whether health materials were reviewed with patients. They found that providers did use good techniques, but were unaware of how frequently they also communicated poorly.   

The second study provided training in health literacy to see how effective it would be for doctors and staff. The results showed that training made providers more aware of patient literacy challenges, but didn’t necessarily change their actions. 

“We have learned that increasing awareness we can do easily, but changing behaviors for people out in practice is different,” Forbis said. “People are going to have to study how we can affect behavior change to improve health literacy practices. Likely we need to provide more intensive communication training people at early stages like residency because behaviors seem more set later on.”

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