Summer Conference on Health Literacy Research Report

Arkansas Health Literacy Partnership, Co-Sponsored with UAMS Division of Research and Practice Improvement, AHEC, Center for Rural Health

August 3-5, 2011, Located at UAMS Institute on Aging

The Health Literacy Research Conference was attended by 40 persons in Little Rock and other persons (totals not yet available) via video-teleconferencing at 6 AHECs around the state (Pine Bluff, El Dorado, Texarkana, Fort Smith, Jonesboro, and Fayetteville).  The purpose of the conference was to stimulate discussion and encourage collaboration and activity related to health literacy research in Arkansas.

The conference was organized by members of the Health Literacy Research Think Tank, is a committee of the Arkansas Health Literacy Partnership, which is the Health Literacy Section of the Arkansas Public Health Association.  It was co-sponsored by the Co-Sponsored with UAMS Division of Research and Practice Improvement, AHEC and Center for Rural Health.  It was also supported by a grant to the Arkansas Department of Health from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Public Health Improvement Initiative for the purpose of increasing the number of practices identified and submitted to CDC as potential promising and best practices related to performance improvement, as well as increasing the number of promising and best practices implemented within Arkansas.

UAMS Chancellor Dan Rahn gave opening remarks, and the participants heard from four presenters that included Andrew Pleasant, Ph.D., from the Canyon Ranch Institute, Jennifer Dillaha, M.D., from the Arkansas Department of Health, Kristie Hadden, Ph.D. candidate, from the UAMS Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health, and Jacquie Rainey, Ph.D., from the UCA College of Health and Behavioral Sciences.  Topics included  “Definition(s) and Scope of Health Literacy”, “Health Literacy, Health Disparities and Quality of Care”, and “Overview of the State of Health Literacy Science/Research”.  In addition, there were discussions related to “Health Literacy and Disparities Research: Example Studies and Research Design”, “Health Literacy and QI Research: Example Studies and Research Design”, and “Health Literacy Research Gaps and Important Questions”. The format was very interactive with good audience participation.

Toward the end of the conference there was an interactive poll conducted using an audience response system.  Based on the results of the poll and the smaller number of participants on the final day, the agenda was modified to allow a single group discussion on next steps for moving health literacy research forward.  The group identified additional stakeholders they would like to include in the Arkansas health literacy research efforts: translational research hospital administration, health behaviorists, College of Medicine, persons with expertise in quantitative and qualitative statistics, rural, primary care physicians, cultural experts such as medical anthropologists, IT, UALR School of Nursing, UA Cooperative Extension Service, health economists, communication specialists, public relations, patient educators, quality improvement, and external/outside reviewers. Research gaps that the group identified centered primarily around health literacy measures.  The measure developed should be simple, and it should address basic health literacy skills, ratio vs nominal data, and contain a core with different modules.  In addition, there was consensus that we need to define the nature and scope of the health literacy problem in Arkansas, which will require that we also develop a working definition of health literacy.  Such a definition will need to include such things as what systems, cultural competence, and functional health literacy.

The final group discussion centered on several ways to sustain health literacy research interest in Arkansas.  First, we should repeat the conference during the first week of August next year.  With advanced planning, we will be able to better communicate and organize with the AHECs to use the audience response system remotely and also distribute the conference-related documents/materials timely.  The registration process should use “Training Tracker”.  The conference could be announces two months in advance at the AHEC Directors Meeting, and we could advertise at UCS, ASU, UA-Fayetteville, UALR, and UAMS.  Also, breakout groups could be organized and announced in advance.

Second, the Health Literacy Research Think Tank (HLRTT) should serve as a communication//coordination hub. To be most effective it will need a coordinator and/or funding.  Members of the HLRTT will work together to produce a working health literacy definition that members will use for the coming year.  This definition will be re-evaluated next year at the Summer Conference.  At that time any work on a measure or conceptual model can also be presented.

Finally, because of the small group size and the fact that many interested stakeholders were not present, the meeting participants decided not to form workgroups at this time.  Rather, they decided to share their personal/professional research interested and pursue collaboration where appropriate.  A list of current or planned health literacy research projects was created.