In a presentation at the 2002 American Nurses Association convention, C. Alicia Georges, RN, EdD, FAAN, president of the National Black Nurses Foundation, reported that lack of health literacy has been identified as “a significant barrier to closing the disparity gap between ethnic people of color and the general population.” Health literacy is defined as “an individual’s capacity to obtain, interpret and understand basic health information and services.” Watch for a report on the innovative Test of Health Literacy in Adults (TOFHLA) developed by Georges and other leaders of the National Black Nurses Association in an upcoming issue of Minority Nurse.

Another recent nursing initiative designed to address the issue of health literacy is a study launched in June by the University of Alabama School of Nursing at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). Funded by a two-year, $100,000 grant from the Pfizer Foundation, the project will evaluate the effectiveness of an educational program designed to help parents with limited literacy skills better understand and treat their children’s illnesses. The study participants consist of 150 parents who are currently enrolled in parenting programs at the local Sylacauga Alliance for Family Enhancement (SAFE) Family Services Center.



The education program, called A.C.T. (Assess-Communicate-Treat), focuses on teaching parents with limited reading and writing skills how to assess a sick child’s symptoms–such as how to read a thermometer and record a temperature–as well as how to communicate the symptoms to a health care provider and how to understand and administer the prescribed treatment.


“Materials will be developed specifically for low-literacy parents,” explains Marion Broome, PhD, associate dean of research at the Center for Nursing Research at UAB. “Printed information will be written at a third-grade reading level and will include pictures and graphics for easy reading and comprehension.”

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Nursing schools that may be interested in launching similar programs based on this model can get more information by contacting the Center for Nursing Research at (205) 934-2153.

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