Health Literacy at POTA

By: Alyssa (Alzimarie) and Annalisa (ALiesel)

On September 29, 2012, Annalisa and I had the opportunity to present at the Pennsylvania Occupational Therapy Association (POTA) state conference about health literacy in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  This was a phenomenal opportunity to learn new skills, present to a larger audience, and empower others in our profession to work towards a more health literate society.

We spent many hours preparing for this opportunity; debating what information was most important to convey, and how to present it in a meaningful, empowering manner so that occupational therapy practitioners could immediately begin to apply health literacy principles in practice.  We discussed what health literacy is, why it matters to occupational therapists, how we can apply it to our place of work, and how we’ve begun to apply these principles at Thomas Jefferson University.  We also encouraged attendees to participate in Health Literacy Month which occurs throughout October.

About 25 occupational therapy practitioners attended our presentation and the discussion was thrilling!  It was so exciting to see people consider how health literacy was already impacting their practice and share what they were doing to promote health literacy.  We discussed that there are three levels at which we can impact change: the patient level, the provider level, and the systems level.  Change at any of these three levels can have a positive impact on health outcomes.  We learned so much from the experienced OTs in the room as they shared their ideas for change on these levels.

Practitioners shared how challenging it can be to communicate with their clients in a health literate way and also discussed some techniques they use to overcome this difficulty.  They talked about the importance of checking client’s understanding by asking them to demonstrate a new skill.  One practitioner shared that she often involves the patient’s family members in conversations as a way to promote plain language. She explained that some patients find it easier to understand directions when they hear them from a family member who uses familiar words and communication patterns. Another practitioner shared that she uses health literacy principles when providing durable medical equipment. She pointed out that this equipment can be confusing for patients to use unless they have very clear directions. One OT who works in a hand clinic said that she uses the “teach back method” with her patients’ home exercise programs. Before she finishes her treatment sessions, she asks her patients to show her how they will do their exercises at home. She said this helps her see whether or not her instructions were clear. Another OT talked about how she chooses words carefully when talking with patients. She gave the example of the word “flexion.” She explained that even though this word might not seem like jargon, it might not make sense to a patient.

This was a phenomenal learning experience for Annalisa and me.  We learned so much about what goes into applying to present at a conference, preparing a presentation, and giving a presentation in a way that facilitates discussion.  These were new skills that will help us as we move forward in our careers.  I came away exhausted from an intense weekend and weeks of preparation, but am so excited about our next opportunity to present at the American Occupational Therapy Association’s national conference in San Diego, California in April 2013.

We are so grateful to Dr. Susan Toth-Cohen for her support and help walking us through each step of this process.  Her insights and ideas were invaluable.   Thanks also to each participant who came to our presentation and shared your own ideas.  Thank you for your feedback and investment into us as future practitioners who want to provide the best possible care for our patients/clients.

Women with Disabilities

Women and girls with disabilities was not a topic I had previously considered.  Although it seemed interesting, I really didn’t think we would be able to find much information about the topic.  When we started researching we found that this was not true at all.  There was so much information about the struggles that women with disabilities experience.  Many articles talked about how these individuals experience may experience discrimination on two accounts, because they are women and because they have a visible disability.  These women may experience discrimination when looking for a job, when looking for a place to live and even in their medical care.  We found that many doctors will not discuss these women’s sexual health because they assume they cannot be intimate.  I thought this was very interesting and must really impact the patients.

Our presentation of this material went very well.  We did two presentations on the 15th.  We had a fairly large turnout and our audience was very diverse.  We had visitors from all over the world, including Brazil, Germany, Australia, The United Kingdom, and America.  Many of our visitors also shared that they had disabilities.  The women with disabilities who were in the audience shared their own personal experiences, which was very interesting.  The women all seemed to agree with the information we were presenting.  Many of them said that they had experienced discrimination in the areas that we had discussed.  They were very open with their own struggles of depression and feeling isolated.  The women said that sometimes they felt like they were standing in their own way but could not pull themselves out of the depression.  There was one young woman who said she had just finished her first semester at college. She said that she was so exhausted from proving to herself and others that she could do everything that any able bodied person could do.  Her partner was also in the audience and said that after her accident she was very depressed and it took her a long time to get over the depression.  Another topic that the women were very vocal about was their sexual health needs being ignored by doctors.  They said that many times they felt like doctors seemed to think of them as being asexual.  The one thing that seemed to surprise the audience was that women with disabilities are more at risk for violence.  Our research showed that this population was more at risk for physical, verbal and sexual abuse.  None of the women spoke of any personal experience with this, however they all seemed very concerned at the possibility.

I think our audience added such a great component to our presentation. We learned so much from their discussion and it seemed like they really enjoyed speaking with each other.  They explained that they often feel alone with the issues that go along with having a disability, and it was great to see them interacting with other people who face the same issues.  Overall I think the sessions went very well and our very diverse audience added so much to the discussion.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Presentation

On October 16th we held a presentation focusing on carpal tunnel syndrome. To prepare for this presentation a lot of research was done on general carpal tunnel syndrome information such as the signs, symptoms, treatment approaches, and how to decrease your risk for developing this condition. The research used for this presentation was the most up to date information available and evidence based to ensure that the most accurate information was being presented. Most of the information was found in occupational therapy journals and on hospital based websites. After the research was complete a power point and script were created along with several interactive aspects such as hand splint, carpal tunnel wrist animation,  and a 3D image demonstrating proper seated positioning at a desk.

                     This picture shows the wrist animation

The audience was very interested in this topic and most of them have had some experience with carpal tunnel syndrome. One attendee was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome and was very interested in gaining more information about it. The audience members asked a lot of interesting questions and shared their personal experiences with carpal tunnel.

Some of the questions that surprised me were about how you can develop carpal tunnel syndrome. One question that was particularly interesting was about if yoga could cause carpal tunnel of make the symptoms worse. We had not conducted any research specifically on yoga and had not thought about how something like yoga could affect the wrists. Any excessive bending or stretching of the wrist can cause increased pressure on the median nerve (which is the cause of carpal tunnel) so yoga could cause the symptoms if it is done for a long period of time or very frequently. Many of our guests were coming up with other ideas and activities that could potentially cause carpal tunnel of make the symptoms worse.

The audience was very interested in the section our presentation on proper positioning and how to decrease your risk of developing carpal tunnel. Many of the audience members participate in activities, such as typing a lot, that can increase the risk of developing this condition so they were anxious to hear about how to decrease this risk and protect themselves and their bodies while continuing to do the activities they like (such as being on second life!).

Overall, this presentation went very well. The audience was interested and had good questions and discussions. I was surprised by how many of them had heard about carpal tunnel syndrome and new a fair amount of information on the topic. This presentation gave them extra information about carpal tunnel and also provided them with ways to avoid developing this disease.

Grad students discuss healthy aging and recent well elderly study

Healthy aging event 8-19-11

On August 18, at two sessions, OT students Rukii Marenwolf (Kaitlin Rodriquez) and Vironica Loxingly (Veronica Souter) gave a presentation and discussion on Healthy Aging. Held at the Garden of Healthy Aging, the event produced some very interesting discussion, a bit of controversy, and suggestions for new ventures. Here is a short excerpt from their talk:

People are living longer so it is important to learn how to keep people healthy as they age. Occupational Therapists believe that engaging in meaningful activities is essential in order to live a healthy life at any age. To continue to be as healthy as possible into late adulthood a person should continue living a healthy lifestyle and doing the things that are important to him or her. This study is extremely important because it shows that changes in lifestyle can be used to help prevent the onset of illness and disability.

Rukii and Vironica combined presentation of the Well Elderly 2 study with questions such as “Have any of you made any lifestyle changes?” and discussion of strategies participants had found beneficial to them. The presenters and participants all emphasized the importance of small changes but consistent changes in daily activities directed by the person him/herself.
Controversy came in when all discussed the issue of “whose responsibility is a person’s health?” Rukii and Vironica brought up the point that it’s one thing to hear a healthcare provider’s advice but may be quite another to actually put lifestyle changes into practice. All agreed that the approach of most physicians is prescriptive and focuses on “fixing a problem;” this needs to change to more fully include consumer perspectives. This brings to mind Linda Hunt et. al.’s seminal work, Compliance and the patient’s perspective: Controlling symptoms in everyday life. Although published in 1987, findings of the study are equally relevant today and make the point that changes must fit well into the person’s lifestyle and their own ideas about what is best for them. The second author, Brigitte Jordan has made this publicly accessible via her blog–a highly recommended and thought-provoking read for any interested in the topic of patient compliance/consumer adherence.

An exciting development was the suggestion by two participants that we form a group to discuss issues of healthy aging. All agreed that there are many on Second Life who could benefit from such a group. We will be discussing the feasibility/possible directions of this in the next several weeks so stay tuned!

ISTE 2011 Presentations

Our activities at ISTE, the International Society for Technology in Education, international conference
Poster/learning station

Machinimafest Entry

Universal Design Events in Second Life

Update 4-30-11

Universal design event 4-30-11

Students gave a repeat performance of their talk on universal design on Saturday, April 30. This was a much larger group (about 25) than Thursday’s event. Gentle Heron and ISkye Silverweb from Virtual Ability and Health Info Island and others from the U.S. and Europe attended. Discussion was lively and included questions about advantages, disadvantages, and application of specific universal design features and how universal design can promote inclusion. We set up tours of the adapted home and playground at Eduisland 2 (main location) and the Garden of Healthy Aging for Saturday, May 7 and Wednesday, May 11, both at 11 am SLT. The starting point will be Eduisland 2 both times). Students will also present their talk on universal design again on May 18, at 11 am at Health Info Island.

universal design event 4-28-11

Universal Design event 4-28-11

To celebrate Occupational Therapy Month, first year OT students Vironica and Rukii are presenting, “Universal design: Why should we care?” at two sessions at the main site of the OT Center at Jefferson in Second Life. The first of these was held on Thursday, April 28 from 7:30 AM to 8:30 AM EDT and included a presentation, discussion, and 3D illustration. The session will be repeated on Saturday, April 30 from 2-3 PM EDT.
When we do these events, we like to provide Second Life residents with different time options, since our audience is from all over the world. Thursday’s presentation included an individual from Germany in the audience. We are looking forward to Saturday’s presentation and hope to see you there!

Promoting Occupational Therapy in Virtual Environments

Promoting Occupational Therapy in Virtual Environments

On Friday April 15, Veronica, Elizabeth, Kaitlin, and I presented our poster at AOTA, Promoting_OT_virtual_env. [BTW, I tried to avoid using a colon as recommended but could not take it out for some reason! See Colin Purrington’s guide to successful poster presentation for a humorous look at colon use.]
Many people stopped by, and there appeared to be a lot of interest. The students did a great job fielding questions and discussing the process of exhibit and event development. Common questions included “how long did it take you to create each exhibit” (about 3 months altogether) and “do you have any idea how many people have seen this?”