Spreading the Word: New Opportunities in Health Literacy

It has been an exciting few months for our work in health literacy.  We are thrilled with the opportunities that continue to arise; opportunities to spread the word about health literacy to our peers, professors, and the occupational therapy community at large.  As we continue to learn about health literacy, we are increasingly convinced of its importance and transformative power in health care.

I recently read Helen Osborne’s book entitled Health Literacy from A to Z.  Osborne talks extensively about how all health care professionals can change the way they interact with clients and promote health literacy.  This makes the health care environment more accessible to all of our clients.  We’re now reading the book as a team and working hard to apply the principles we’ve learned to our other projects.  It is exciting to see my own writing and observation skills improving particularly in our work in Second Life ®.

Our updated Diabetes exhibit include a “Living with Diabetes Listening Station” featuring one individual’s experience managing their blood sugar.

When you visit the Garden of Healthy Aging, you’ll notice that we are updating our exhibits to be more user-friendly and provide information more clearly.  In addition, we’re working to update our wiki pages.  This is one of the most exciting ways to apply our knowledge of health literacy in writing, formatting, and design.  Our hope is that we can create a useable site that provides a lot of “need to know” information in a way that people of all different reading levels can understand.  We are making progress towards our goal, but still have a long way to go and a lot to continue learning!

We are excited to announce that Pfizer Inc. granted us permission to use their “Newest Vital Sign”, a health literacy screen for clients, within our Second Life ® exhibit.  This will give users the opportunity to test their level of health literacy as well as tips for improving health literacy.  We hope to empower clients to take a greater control in their health and gain confidence in asking health professionals questions.

Dr. Toth-Cohen, PhD, OTR/L is currently developing a course in health literacy for students in a variety of professions at Thomas Jefferson University. This is a great opportunity to help future health professionals gain a greater understanding of the importance of health literacy and how they can interact most effectively with their patients.  This class also comes a time when the occupational therapy department at Thomas Jefferson is looking to incorporate the principles of health literacy into the curriculum.  We presented to the faculty about health literacy which opened to the door for great discussion about the future of health literacy within the department and the future of our project

Annalisa, Dr. Toth-Cohen, and I will be presenting at the Pennsylvania Occupational Therapy Association conference this September  about why health literacy matters to occupational therapists.  This is an exciting opportunity to have our work recognized by other occupational therapists in our state and for us to encourage them to integrate health literacy principles into their area of practice.  We are looking forward to sharing what we have learned and hope to be a catalyst for change within occupational therapy practice.

This is a thrilling time of change and progress with our program and I am honored to have the opportunity to be a part of it!  My hope is that others will continue to catch the dream that we have and empower others to change the way the health care system operates.  We are hoping to have many more opportunities to spread the word.

Spreading the Word: Taking Every Opportunity to Teach Others About Health Literacy

By: Annalisa (ALiesel) and Alyssa (alzimarie)

 On January 19th, we presented our work on health literacy to our classmates in our Jefferson School of Health Professions class OT 560, “Interventions: Environmental Competence.” The focus of this interventions class is to understand the therapy process in terms of the dynamic interaction between the client, their occupations, and their environment, and apply this knowledge in practice by developing client-centered environmental modifications. In our concurrent course, OT 562, “Environmental Competence in Action”, pairs of students conduct an environmental analysis project with a community dwelling client. The OT students make seven visits to the client’s home and collaborate with the client to identify and carry out five adaptations to the environment that will support the client’s health and participation in daily occupations.

For many of us, this is our first time working as an OT consultant interacting with a client, as well as our first time performing a home environmental assessment. Prior to our first visits with our clients, our instructor, Tracey Vause-Earland, MS, OTR/L, prepared a series of classes designed to give us strategies for delivering client-centered, collaborative services. It was in planning these classes that Tracey asked us to present what she believed would be “imperative information” for the class to hear: the facts about health literacy.

Tracey was familiar with our work on health literacy in the virtual world of Second Life® (read about our presentation), and felt strongly that our classmates needed to develop health literacy skills in order to effectively interact with clients. We whole-heartedly agreed. Our research on health literacy has shown us just how critical it is for health professionals to support their clients’ ability to understand and use health information to make health decisions.

We began by showing a youtube clip created by the American Medical Association that contains first person accounts of what it is like to have low health literacy.  It was obvious following the video that we had our classmates’ attention. They expressed shock and amazement that their clients could be experiencing such low health literacy without their awareness.  We discussed what health literacy is and how the healthcare system places demands on individuals to independently manage their health. This creates an environment that is difficult for our clients.  We asked our classmates to brainstorm ways in which occupational therapists could improve clients’ understanding.  We did not anticipate the enthusiastic and thoughtful answers our classmates posed to this question.  They quite literally stole our thunder!  Knowing that our peers were able to apply the small amount of information we had given them and make connections to their interactions with clients was exciting.  The room was abuzz following our presentation. Classmates kept saying, “That was great- thank you. I had never thought about health literacy like that before.”

In the three weeks since delivering our presentation, several classmates have voluntarily approached us to tell us how they have seen applications of health literacy in their own lives, and how their awareness of health literacy has shaped their interactions with their clients One classmate said, “I thought of your presentation over the weekend when I was at the doctor’s office. I had a question I wanted to ask my doctor, but I didn’t know how to phrase it, and I was too scared to bring it up in the end.” Another classmate said, “My OT 562 partner and I recalled what we learned about health literacy in your presentation when we worked with our client for our project this week. When we asked our client what kind of medication he was taking, he said he didn’t know what it was, but he takes it anyway ‘because the doctor tells him to’. He said he usually takes two kinds of medication before breakfast, but he doesn’t know if that’s the correct time of day to take them. He showed us the medications- he’s taking a blood thinner and a laxative, but he didn’t know why. We recognized this as an example of low health literacy!”

Our hope is that we can continue to educate those around us about health literacy: our peers, our professors, our clients, and our future employers and colleagues.  Evidence shows that the health care system is demanding more and more of clients to manage their own health (Smith & Gutman, 2011). This means that health professionals need to become skilled in supporting health literacy in their clients. We have developed a firm belief that health literacy is the future of health care and that it is imperative that we continue to spread the word.

For additional resources and information, visit our wiki.

References:

Smith, D. L., & Gutman, S. A. (2011).  Health literacy in occupational therapy practice and research.  American Journal                                                    of Occupational Therapy, 65, 367-369.  doi: 10.5014/ajot.2011.002139

Health Literacy Grant

This fall, we were funded by the Jefferson School of Health Professions‘ (JSHP) Research and Scholarship program to develop a program that uses Second Life as a training center for JSHP graduate students in occupational therapy. This program is designed to help students learn best practices for promoting health literacy in older adults by implementing evidence-based consumer education.

The current phase of the program provides students in the Fall 2011 class, Older Adults and Their Living Environments with the opportunity to learn about health literacy and develop a presentation on area relevant to older adults.  The four participating students, Mollie Bear, Bonnie Bennett, Aly Binck, and Lauren Lovinger first attended a presentation on basic tenets of health literacy. They then developed and presented talks on Transitioning to the Caregiving Role and  Staying Involved throughout Life. These talks will be summarized in a subsequent post.

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!