Health Literacy Knowledge and Experiences of Social Workers at North Shore-LIJ Health System

Elizabeth C McCulloch, Fordham University

Abstract

Health literacy permeates all areas of patient-provider communication and is essential to successful healthcare (Institute of Medicine, 2004; Parker & Gazmararian, 2003). Low health literacy pervades all patient populations, socioeconomic classes and age groups (Andrus & Roth, 2002) and nearly half of the U.S. adult population has low health literacy skills (Kutner et al., 2006). Despite the prevalence of low health literacy, most research has focused on patient factors related to health literacy and not on the health literacy skills, knowledge and practices of health professionals (Coleman, 2011). As members of the healthcare team, social workers are in a position of responsibility to enhance patient-provider communication, assess the health literacy skills of patients and implement appropriate interventions. It is important to understand the health literacy knowledge and experiences of social workers to provide the potential to identify a vehicle through which to reduce the problems of low health literacy. However, there has been no research to date that has examined the health literacy knowledge and experiences of social workers.^ Using the Health Literacy Knowledge and Experiences Survey (HL-KES) (Cormier, 2006) the aims of this cross-sectional study were to determine the level of health literacy knowledge and experience, the relationship between health literacy knowledge and experience and the personal and professional characteristics associated with health literacy knowledge and experience of social workers in a large healthcare system. One hundred sixty eight social workers employed at North Shore-LIJ Health System completed the survey tool (Cormier, 2006).^ Responses to the HL-KES indicated that Health Literacy Knowledge and Experience Scale scores were low. Those who participated in the NSLIJHS Health Literacy Module had a higher score on the Health Literacy Knowledge Scale than those who did not know if they participated and a higher score on the Health Literacy Experience Scale than those who had not participated in the module or were not sure if they had. Ethnicity was associated with Health Literacy Knowledge but not Health Literacy Experience and a moderate correlation existed between years of practice in social work and Health Literacy Experience. Health Literacy Knowledge Scale scores were higher for those working in Palliative Care or Hospice practice settings and Health Literacy Experience scores were higher for those working in Community practice settings.^ This study represents the first time health literacy knowledge and experiences of social workers have been examined. Findings have implications for social work practice, policy and research. Results provide future directions for the development of specific education and practice changes that can help to increase social workers’ health literacy knowledge and experiences. ^

Subject Area

Social Work

Recommended Citation

McCulloch, Elizabeth C, "Health Literacy Knowledge and Experiences of Social Workers at North Shore-LIJ Health System" (2015). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3702560.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI3702560

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