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Health information not communicated well to minority populations, MU researcher finds
Date:10/31/2009

. LEP patients also may delay going to the doctor to avoid dealing with the frustrations of the language problems, Smith said.

The researchers found that communication complications also can be a problem among those with disabilities. Individuals who rely on sign language may need an interpreter to communicate with their doctors; interpreters are not always accessible. Assumptions about the disabled community also may contribute to low health literacy.

"Even within the health environment, there is a tendency to assume that if there is a physical disability there is a cognitive one as well," Smith said.

To try and manage the disparities, researchers suggest improving awareness of the problem among doctors. Organizations like Health Literacy Missouri and the University of Missouri Center for Health Policy host training sessions for physicians and other healthcare providers to help them understand health literacy and strategies to better communicate with their patients.

Communicating with medical students is an important strategy identified in the study. Training students about health literacy issues may improve health literacy in the future. To help those with LEP, Smith encourages the use of telehealth communications a network that uses telecommunications technology to communicate health information and services. Currently, the Missouri Telehealth Interpretation Project provides LEP patients access to interpreters that would otherwise not be available. University of Missouri Health Care provides patients and families spoken and sign-language interpreter services and written translation services for 55 languages.

"Health literacy is being addressed in the healthcare reform debates because it's a safety issue and it's a cost issue," Smith said. "It costs a lot of money when people have to go back to the hospital because they aren't using their medications appropriately."

The researchers used data from the 2006
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Contact: Christian Basi
BasiC@missouri.edu
573-882-4430
University of Missouri-Columbia
Source:Eurekalert  

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