ALiesel’s Page

Health Literacy

On November 20, Alyssa and I gave a presentation in the Garden of Healthy Aging on health literacy. The event was exciting for me personally as my first opportunity to practice my Second Life presentation skills, using voice and text. What was even more exciting to me, however, was the opportunity to discuss this topic with students and professionals, and hear about their perspectives and experience of health literacy in practice.

Health Literacy Presentation 11/20/11

Alyssa and I asked the audience to share their knowledge and experience of health literacy to start the event, and we were excited to have an enthusiastic response from members of the audience who were already informed on the topic. We were also glad to have several occupational therapy students from Jefferson’s OT 555 “Older Adults and Their Living Environments” class share their perspective. A lively discussion followed, with audience members sharing their thoughts about what makes it difficult for people to understand and use health information. We discussed challenges of navigating the healthcare system, difficulties with understanding medical jargon, and barriers to accessing health services. Later in the presentation we highlighted ways that health professionals can help clients face these challenges. The group discussed the importance of making reading materials more accessible using visuals and simple language, using “summarize” “echo back” and “teach back” methods to confirm patient understanding, and using simple teaching models to explain health conditions.

First year students present on health literacy

It was fascinating to hear from health care professionals in different areas (specifically nursing and occupational therapy) about their experience working with clients, and also recognize that health literacy applies to each of us personally as individuals who need to make health decisions for ourselves. I appreciated the insights that audience participants shared about the barriers that they have personally experienced when trying to understand and use health services, including stress in the exam room, unclear home-program instructions, and social stigma when seeking services. Our conversation confirmed for me the importance of understanding the patient perspective, and the need for health professionals to take an active role in promoting health literacy for their clients.

I came away from the discussion with new ideas about health literacy that have sparked my excitement to investigate the topic further. I was especially interested to consider the ideas of “shared decision making” and “concordance” as key elements of health literacy, and I think these components would be useful to include in future research. I am excited to discover more about how virtual worlds can be used to promote health literacy after taking part in this discussion. One of our audience members at the presentation shared that she is conducting a study about how virtual worlds can be used to increase health literacy. I will look forward to seeing the outcome of her study when it is finished. I think this event was a prime example of how virtual worlds can bring professionals together to promote understanding of health literacy, and I am excited to see how we can continue to use Second Life for this purpose.

International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health

On December 29, Alyssa and I presented about the International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health (ICF) at the conference center at Health Info Island. We were excited to have the opportunity to give this presentation as part of a series hosted by Virtual Ability, titled “Waiting for the World to Change, 2012”. This presentation series was dedicated to topics relating to the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. We gave the presentation at two different times in the day, with an enthusiastic crowd at both sessions. It was neat to have a fairly international audience at our first session, with participants from Scotland, the Netherlands, and Spain as well as the U.S..

I was excited to present about the topic of the ICF because this model closely matches the framework and goals of occupational therapy. With its focus on functioning, the ICF can be used to help individuals maximize functioning in daily activities and roles, and thus promote engagement in life through participation in occupation. The ICF is a particularly useful model because it provides an internationally recognized framework and common language for describing disability and health in terms of functioning.

We opened our presentation by asking our audience about how they personally define disability. Audience members offered their thoughts about what constitutes “disability”, commenting on factors such as health conditions, medical diagnoses, psychological challenges, and limitations in ability to complete tasks. We also asked the audience to consider how society defines disability, and how this compares with their personal definition. Several audience members shared that they personally have a disability, and said that people in their communities often do not understand their disability and do not know how to acknowledge it. Some expressed frustration at being viewed “as a health condition” because people can’t see beyond their disability.

When we explained how the ICF considers a person’s functioning in terms of participation in daily activities and roles, our audience seemed excited to learn more about this model as a different way to think about disability and health. Audience members  chimed in, giving examples of how the model could be applied to their own functioning, asking about how the ICF could be used to document disability, and sharing ideas about how this model could be used to change society’s view of disability and health.

Our presentation ended on a positive note, showing how the ICF is currently being used in the areas of education and environmental design as a framework to maximize individual functioning. We expressed the hope that the ICF can continue to be used as a model for increasing social justice for people with disabilities. It was great to hear audience members’ vision for the future. Several people shared their hopes for a world where accessible environments are the norm, and social attitudes reflect the idea that people with disabilities can be healthy just like everyone else, just with a different way of functioning in their everyday activities.

This was a very eye-opening and inspiring experience. It was remarkable to hear others’ thoughts about what changes can be made to increase social justice for people with disabilities, and look at the ICF as a framework that can serve as a foundation for that change. It was also particularly uplifting to realize how Second Life can be a source of support for people with disabilities, and provide a world where ability levels do not reflect real life medical diagnoses. One audience member even pointed out that new Second Life members often have a disability in their functioning in the virtual world. I certainly relate to this experience, and I have appreciated sites in Second Life such as Virtual Ability which help new members learn to function in the virtual world. Through my few months’ experience in Second Life, I have come more and more to realize how this virtual world can help people connect, socialize, design, build, create, and engage in other virtual activities. Our discussion about the ICF and functioning further broadened my awareness of how virtual worlds can be used to bring meaning to a person’s life, and I am grateful to our audience members who willingly shared their perspectives and knowledge.

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