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Award Report: Developing Health Literacy Skills in a Health Disparate Population–University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey

The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) Libraries, in conjunction with the University Hospital and two health literacy fellows from Global Health Corps (GHC), have spearheaded the rollout of the “Ask Me” patient advocacy campaign within the clinical environment of the Newark campus.  The program is based upon the “Ask Me 3″ program that has been used successfully throughout the country.  Funds from an NN/LM MAR Health Literacy Award were secured to assist with the initiation and expansion of the “Ask Me” training materials to community members and patients beyond the University Hospital.

UMDNJ partnered with Covenant House Newark via a series of educational sessions. The young adults who live at Covenant House were a small, ideal target group on which to focus and assess the “Ask Me” training.   UMDNJ/GHC fellows designed an intervention to educate Covenant House’s clients about the “Ask Me” campaign using a multimedia approach.

The intervention consisted of the following steps:

  1. Gathering baseline data: UMDNJ/GHC fellows prepared and administered a pre-interview survey to participants. Survey were anonymous and helped gather information about the participants’ previous patient experiences, specifically about their level of understanding of the information healthcare providers gave them.
  2. Intervention: UMDNJ/GHC fellows and Covenant House/GHC fellows  led a group discussion on participants’ experiences with healthcare providers, specifically about their feelings about interacting with healthcare providers and their understanding of what they need to do when they leave the provider’s office.  The fellows used a laptop and projector purchased through the award to record and categorize responses. They then introduced the “Ask Me” program  through print brochures and multimedia elements. This was followed by role-playing sessions, wherein participants enacted a doctor/patient visit using the “Ask Me” tools.
  3. Evaluation: Participants completed a free-form response card to provide feedback on the session. Fellows planned to meet with the participants’ before their next healthcare appointment to review the “Ask Me” campaign. Participants’ would then attend the appointment and fill out a post-intervention survey questionnaire.

All of the participants in the intervention program identified it to be a very useful session for future encounters with physicians.  Feedback from interviews with the Covenant House residents reinforced the premise that encouraging patients to question their health providers results in improved confidence and understanding of personal health issues.  The acquisition and dissemination of patient folios to house materials obtained during health provider visits encourages compliance. This enables patients to store relevant materials (referrals, maps, directions, instructions, “Ask Me” brochures, Patient Bill of Rights, and other disease-specific information) in one place.

Judith Cohn
Associate VP for Scholarly Information/University Librarian
University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey

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