Beginnings Guides Blog
Start with measurement
What we measure and how we measure it
matters because it determines what we
find out about what works and what’s
worth doing and who should do it.* Measurement
remains the most crucial issue
for health literacy research
; because we need to find
out what works for
whom, and what’s
worth doing and who should do it.
especially interested in what works for mothers in
the prenatal to preschool
healthy population. What mothers learn about health and
during pregnancy and early parenting can benefit entire families
across their lifespans,
and extend benefits to the healthcare, education and
justice systems, and to the economy.
Health literacy focuses on patients
understanding healthcare information
Health literacy research assesses
literacy by their scores on a single
administration of a reading test using
medical terms. Patients are marked poor, marginal
or adequate. An
adequate score means you will probably not need assistance to make
information about your diagnosis
or to follow treatment instructions.
you cannot pronounce most of the words, you are assumed to have poor health literacy
and to be
unable to “obtain,
process and understand basic information needed to make
What we find out from health
literacy-reading test scores is that almost everybody has
vocabulary and difficulty making sense of information from the healthcare
system. We find out that information needs to be simplified and its delivery
needs to be
improved. We find that patients score better when we give them
better information and
conclude that what’s
worth doing is improving information and its delivery. Since most
studies originate in
academic medical centers, it is not surprising that studies position health
professionals as the keepers and dispensers of health and medical knowledge and
so it falls
to them to reduce the risk and mitigate the negative impacts of low
[health] literacy on
patients and the system.
Maternal health literacy focuses on
parents using information for health
Maternal health literacy research
assesses periodically what parents do with information,
how they integrate it
into their lives and households. Changes in parent’s
healthcare-related actions, practices and behaviors provide
evidence of progress (or
regression) in developing the knowledge and social and
cognitive skills needed to participate
in healthcare and preventive practices.
This approach captures effects of systems efforts to
improve information as
well as public health efforts to directly assist parents to make meaning
the information and apply it in real life.
By monitoring what parents actually
do for health with the information available to them, we
find out that direct
assistance to use information and services for health is most beneficial to
lower functioning parents, while also benefitting higher functioning parents.
We find that social
workers, parent educators, health educators, and trained
paraprofessionals working in homes
and communities can enable parents to better
manage family health and healthcare, even with
the added challenges of poverty,
limited education and limited English proficiency.
Both approaches are needed
The dominant clinical approach to
literacy and the public health approach to
maternal health literacy are
complementary rather than exclusive. Patients and parents need
information, accessible services, and assistance to use them effectively.
schorr Common Purpose: Strengthening Families and Neighborhoods to Rebuild
Read this book!
The morning was chilly, definitely
fall in the air. I turned on the
furnace. It seemed to take a while
but the house warmed up. Just as I
noticed my nose was no longer cold, a
contractor doing repairs on the exterior reported with some alarm the
smell of gas around the furnace exhaust. I turned off the heat. Two days later
the scene repeated itself. The previous residents could not recall any problem
with the furnace, or ever having
I called a local heating company.
The tech walked in the door,
sniffed the air, and immediately pulled out his hand-held CO - carbon monoxide
- monitor. His eyebrows went up.
He ordered all the windows and doors opened. Then he went outside to get a reading at the exhaust vent.
He left the area when the reading got to 260 - more than 10x the standard.
What you don’t know can hurt you
Would this explain my headache
that won’t go away, I asked. Yes. And dizziness, drowsiness or
a lightheaded sort of flu-like feeling - early signs of carbon monoxide
poisoning. That’s what kills a person who sits too long in a car in
the garage with the motor running.
Turns out the furnace heat
exchangers - whatever those are - had cracked, probably years earlier causing
the furnace to leak moisture and over heat. It had been deteriorating,
gradually producing less and less heat with more and more gas.
never thought about the furnace beyond the thermostat. I took for
granted that it protected my health by providing heat in the winter. It never occurred to me that it could be
Use information and services in
ways that enhance health.
the definition of health literacy. With many households switching to affordable
gas heating and appliances, keeping healthy requires new awareness. Here’s information I learned about maintaining gas
appliances that you, and families you serve, can use to protect and enhance
health this winter.
Get a CO
monitor. If you have any gas
appliances get a monitor. Building codes now squire them in new construction.
If you have a gas furnace put one in each bedroom. I got a model that’s
guaranteed for 10 years for $23 at WallMart. It plugs in to any outlet. The
alarm sounds if the CO level reaches 70 ppm -parts per million - the
point when most people start to feel symptoms. For a little more money you can get a monitor that shows the
ppm . For a bit less, there are battery powered monitors, but you have to
monitor the battery.
If the alarm sounds, get to fresh
air and call 911.
furnace checked annually- a great way
to mark Health Literacy Month each October. The local heating company charges
$109 to check the system including the ducts. The new furnace I bought cost
$4500. If the furnace had been checked annually for the last 20 year that would
have cost a total of $2180.
filter every six months. My local
heating company provides free filters and will change them at no charge 2x a
year. Does yours?
smell gas, do not ignore it. Turn off the appliance. Open doors and windows. Call
for service to the appliance. Do not wait for the alarm to sound.
numbers. CO level at the furnace’s exterior exhaust should be < 24ppm (parts
per million). The level in front
of a gas fireplace should be < 9ppm. My fireplace tested at 30ppm. It is off. It will be
Social media and the NFL are enabling us to
reflect together on what level of aggression and violence in family
relationships is acceptable in our society. It's a fitting although
inadvertent role for the NFL, whose players are de facto role models for
American males, and whose recruiters, coaches and fans place high value on
aggression and violence on the field. (Here is Seattle, we love the defense in
Beast Mode - on the field.) The NFL's position on aggression at home is, well, evolving.
Thanks to the inventors and users of social media.
There seems to be consensus that child
abuse is unacceptable, and discipline is necessary. But the line between
discipline and abuse is defined by a complex and dynamic web of personal
beliefs, local culture, and state laws.
What is abuse?
It depends who you ask and where you are. State law
is largely focused on protecting parents' rights, and keeping the family free
of government or social interference. Social workers focus on protecting the
child from parental excess. The courts aim to balance parents' rights with
children's welfare. There's controversy regarding how much weight should be
given to potential effects on children's social and emotional wellbeing and
healthy development, on what is "normal" in the child's community, on
potential future harm, on how well the punishment fits the infraction, on a
pattern of parental behavior.
State laws are intentionally vague about what
constitutes abuse, so that cases can be decided on an individual basis.
The laws and their approaches to defining abuse vary widely. Interpretation on
the ground varies by agencies and individuals. This can result in a "I
know it when I see it" understanding of child abuse. Judging by the
Twitter traffic around Adrian Peterson, people who view the same video evidence
interpret it very differently.
How to decide?
Ultimately, parents must decide whether, when
and how to discipline their child. To me there are two important things to
bring to mind when discipline is in order. First, every young child wants to
be, tries to be like his or her parents. And every parental action teaches the
child some lesson, by default or by design.
A clear distinction for me is that disciple
is teaching by design.
It intends to teach the child appropriate behavior
and right action. Abuse is teaching by default, it aims to punish inappropriate
behavior. As a parent, the question to ask when provoked by a preschooler, or
any child, is what do I want to teach now?
Adrian Peterson said he wanted to teach his son
to be respectful and not curse at playmates. But his preschooler did not make
up those swear words. He learned them from someone he is trying to be like. And
hitting a person with a stick is about as disrespectful as one can get.
Peterson left a scar on his 4-year-old's head, which he said the child
could have avoided by not trying to get away. Would you try to get away
from a brawny footballer coming after you with a stick? I sure would. Would you
think he was abusing you or that he was teaching you appropriate social
Consider what that boy is going to say to
himself as he grows up looking in the mirror at his scar? "I want to
be respectful and polite like my dad". Probably not.
This from Beginnings Parents Guide
Translating research into practice is a challenge for all practitioners. We could call
literacy” - ability to obtain, understand, evaluate and use research to make
treatment and policy decisions. How can clinician/educators of healthcare
professionals enable new clinicians to use research to challenge current
practice and provide evidence-based care? How do you implement changes to long
standing curricula, evaluation procedures, and teaching methods? How do you
capture the richness of diversity and overcome its challenges? Those are
questions faculty, staff and students of University of Cape Town School of
Nursing have been actively wrestling with in recent years. The questions guide
their research which is “relevant to and directly transferable to local and
resource-constrained practice settings”.
Learnings to be published soon
I know this because I am guest-editing a special
edition the African nursing journal Curationis.
This work, like the special edition itself, is an outgrowth of one of my all-time
favorite gigs - keynoting the first, totally awesome and inspiring, conference
on Building Children’s Nursing for Africa
April,2013. (Consider participating in the second conference April 22-24,
So I get to read all
the articles and shepherd them through the publication process. What an
education i am getting! The issue
is shaping up nicely. I think it is going to valuable to all nursing and
medical educators working with diverse student bodies or training professionals
to serve low-resource populations.
mother was expecting her first child. She was due in late July. Her OB was due
to be on vacation. So he induced labor July 9.
was 65 years ago. But the story,
and the disconnect between the body’s
wisdom and medical practice is not out of date.
Induction of labor became more and more common, despite increasing evidence of the risks of preterm
birth; 23 years later, my labor was induced. The doctor said it was time. Over the last 20 years, the induction
rate increased every year to 23.8% in 2010.
Finally, practice is beginning to follow the
evidence. New data show the national rate of inductions began inching down in
2011 to 23.5% in 2012, the latest available figure.
"Pregnancy lasts 40 weeks...Labor should not be induced before 40 weeks except for medical reasons."
"If your doctor talks to you about inducing labor, ask if you can wait until week 40."
Beginnings Pregnancy Guide
good news is in induction rates for “late preterm” (34-36
weeks gestation) and “early term” births (37-38 weeks). Those rates started downward in
2006, with the greatest improvement (decrease) at 38 weeks. In 36 states and DC, inductions at 38 weeks
have been reduced by 5% to 48%.
national rate is down 12%. The
number births at >39 weeks gestation is up 9%.
bad news is disparities continue.
Induction rates at 38 weeks are down 19% for whites, 7% for Hispanics, and only
3% for blacks.
for research: How did the state that
reduced its rate by nearly half do
that? What is different about the
states that reduced their rate by 30% or more —UT,
ND, SD and NE—
states where the rate continues to increase—AK, NY and NC?
Source: Osterman MJK, Martin JA.
Recent declines in induction of labor by gestational age. NCHS data brief, no
155. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2014.
In a reversal of its recommendations
that have for years cautioned against children and pregnant or breastfeeding
women eating fish, the Food and Drug Administration’s new guidelines reflect recognition that fish is a great source
of protein and other essential nutrients. For the first time, the FDA has
specified a minimum intake of fish and other seafood.
8 to 12 ounces per week—
2 or 3 servings
That’s the new minimum
for a healthy diet. Beginnings
Pregnancy Guide (
2014) recommends 1 or 2 servings per
week, the previous maximum recommendation, now considered overly cautious.
The warning to avoid large, long-lived fish like swordfish,
mackerel and tile fish remains.
Those big fish live long enough to build up
organic mercury in their flesh. According to MedlinePlus
medical evidence suggests that being exposed to large amounts of the organic
mercury called methylmercury while pregnant can permanently damage the baby’s developing brain. Small exposures
are unlikely to cause any problems.
Choose canned light tuna
Salmon, shrimp. and other seafood that Beginnings lists as
safe and healthy, are still safe and healthy. It is important to caution mothers against canned white albacore tuna since it has three times the mercury of the recommended
canned light tuna. The FDA suggests limiting tuna to 6 ounces a week.
Beginnings Pregnancy Guide (2014) pg. 13
Use the Fish Safety Hotline
That’s 1-888-723-3366 to check the safety of fish in your area. This free 24 hour resource is listed on
the Pregnancy Guide’s Key Messages Poster
and on page 42.
Wednesday, May 21 at 10AM, the start of the 217th CenteringPregnancy group at Greenville Health Systems OB-Gyn Clinic in Greenville, SC. As participants
arrived, one with a friend, one with her cousin and her mother, one with her
husband, others on their own, Nora, an assistant facilitator, greeted them and gave them supplies to
make their name tags. She showed
each mom the routine for the first 30 minutes of each Centering session: Take your blood
pressure like this; record it here. This is what the numbers mean… Weigh
yourself; record it here. When she calls you, have a private visit
and brief exam with Vicki,
the nurse practitioner. Have a
snack, visit with other participants, or ask the midwife a private question.
Then for the next 90 minutes the
group of 9 expectant, mostly first-time mothers sat in circle with their supporters and three
facilitators, and me, the visitor there to learn about Centering. The initial
awkwardness faded quickly.
self-introductions and a lively, laughter-punctuated discussion of current
issues from morning sickness to cravings to farting; a basket of plastic food
items was passed around and we took turns talking about the items we chose. “So will you eat that during your pregnancy?”, Nora asked the group gesturing to the chocolate
dipped ice cream cone. Yes, the
group decided —after all
it is summer in SC. But not every day; as a special treat because it’s loaded with sugar and fat. At closing we each said
one thing we were going to do to stay or get healthy during this pregnancy… walk, drink water instead of sweet tea, try eating
CenteringPregnancy promote maternal health literacy?
opening session was also the kickoff of the CenteringPregnancy
Health Literacy Trial, although the group will not hear about until
their next session. The trial aims
to assess the capacity of CenteringPregnancy to promote maternal health
literacy and empowerment. A secondary aim to is validate the Maternal Health
Literacy Self Assessment designed for the project. We anticipate that the Centering model promotes mothers’ health literacy and health empowerment by supporting
knowledge gain and changes in health behaviors and healthcare utilization
practices. Previous studies
have shown that social support from home
visitors is a catalyst for improved health literacy. In those studies, visitors
were trained to “Teach by Asking”, that is to ask reflect questions instead of
delivering health education. In Centering, rather than teaching and informing,
facilitators ask questions to elicit the group wisdom. The group provides
luck of the draw, about 120 pregnant women participating in CenteringPregnancy at
this Greenville clinic will comprise the comparison group in the trial; other
than completing the Self-Assessment, they will receive “usual care” in the
CenteringPregnancy model. An equal
number of participants at a second site will incorporate Beginnings
Pregnancy Guide into the program along with the Self-Assessments. We will
see if providing additional information promotes health literacy more than “usual care”.
tuned for more on the Maternal Health Literacy Self-Assessment.
It’s not a day for breakfast in bed, bon bons and roses. It is a day for peace.
Julia Ward Howe started Mothers
Day as a call for the women of the world to
come together to protest war and create ways to do away
with war as an
acceptable way to solve problems. This year we can celebrate not
only our own
mothers and our fellow mothers. We can celebrate that America is
not at war.
And we can celebrate that with
the Affordable Care Act, America is supporting
mothers in their role of
teaching children charity, mercy and patience and keeping
families healthy and
Learn the deeper meaning of
Mothers Day here:
panel conducts independent reviews
In March 2014,
32 health and social services providers, program directors,
supervisors volunteered to assess the understandability and
Education Materials Assessment Tool for Printable Materials from the Agency
Healthcare Research and Quality. Twenty-six completed the assessment.
secondary purpose of the review was to implement the new PEMAT-P
and get a
sense of its utility. Each of the six booklets comprising the Beginnings
Pregnancy Guide was reviewed separately by four or five individuals working
Beginnings Pregnancy Guide Earns High Marks
I am particularly pleased with the
nearly perfect actionability score.
Goethe said it centuries ago, “Understanding is not
enough, we must act.”
multisyllabic bit of Latinized jargon that is questionable
in the context of
health literacy) is the quality of information that enables users
its meaning. The PEMAT-P asks reviewers to rate printable materials
factors in six categories known to affect understandability. A score of 1
indicates the factor is
present; 0 indicates it is not; NA indicates the factor is not
Factor scores are expressed as the percent of possible scores of 1. The
score is calculated as the average
of reviewers’ combined
scores in each category.
Here are the category scores:
Content: 94% Word
Choice/Style: 96% Use of
Organization: 97% Layout/Design: 96% Visual Aids: 96%
“Overall the book looks and reads very clearly and will be
for a low level reader.”
(more jargon) is the quality of information
that enables users to take action.
Reviewers score seven contributing factors. The
final score is calculated as
the average of the factor scores. The Pregnancy Guide
earned 100% on
five of the actionability factors.
additional plus is the links to other resources for specific topics.”
comments on the materials.PEMAT-P shows good reliability
during development of the tool showed acceptable
validity. Results of
this project suggest the tool has good inter-rater
reliability, meaning that multiple
reviewers of the same materials rate the
third of the reviewers struggled with the PEMAT web page. Technical
difficulties may have discouraged some of the six who did not submit a competed
Personally, I recommend relabeling the buttons in the top
menu. I expected the PRINT
button to print something; it brings up the Printed
Materials form. The bottom menu
buttons are inactive on my machine. Those
buttons and the frame around the form take
up space and require printing on two
pages in too-small type. I, and some others, found
the numbering on the
Printable Materials form confusing; it skips items related only to
PEMAT-P is a useful at-your-desk review that can improve materials in the
development process and weed out complex, fact heavy, concept-dense materials.
cannot replace testing by intended users - both teachers and learners.
Kudos to the
developers of the PEMAT: Michael Wolf and Cindy Brach
Thanks to the reviewers: Betsy Rubin, Lori Lake, Pamela
Cho, Michelle Breuer,
Dora McKean, Kath Anderson, Joanne Martin, Tennessa
Deus, Oscar Flores, Cheryl Underwood, Marisela Rosales,
Kobe Rives, Alli McClennen,
Eva Perez, Lina Rooney, Elizabeth Burleson, Cynthia
Smith, Denise Powell, Katie Burnett,
Leslie Munson, Mary Rosecky, Jeffrey
Wynnyk, Linda Wollesen, Margarita Franco,
My dad, age 86, was
hospitalized with arrhythmia. Hospital medical staff said his heart muscle
looked strong and undamaged, but later another doctor said he had a minor heart
attack. Dad was sent home with several medications with instructions to stop
all his usual meds - including the multivitamin, and the stool softener
prescribed by his internist. The hospital
nurses could not answer why those should be stopped… Three days later Dad quit taking the new meds. He said they made him
sleep 20 hours a day, and made him stupid when he was awake. Worried, Mom set an appointment with
his personal physician who adjusted the meds, lectured him about the danger of
them, and gave him this summary of new instructions.
Medications to Continue Taking That Have Changed
START: amiodarone (amiodarone 200 mg oral tablet) 1 tab(s) Oral, every day. Refills: 0
STOP: amiodarone (amiodarone 200 mg oral tablet) 1 tab(s) 2 times a day. Refills: 0
Medications to Continue with No Changes
aspirin (Aspirin Enteric Coated 325 mg oral delayed release tablet) 1 tab(s) Oral, every day, Refills: 0
dufoxetine (Cynbalta 60 mg oral delayed release tablet) 1 cap(s) Oral, every day. (do not crush or chew). Refills:0
No Longer Take the Following Medications
digoxin 125 mcg (0.125mg) oral tablet) 1 tab(s) Oral, every day. Refills: 0
metoprolol (Metoprolol Tartrate 25 mg oral tablet) 1 tab(s), Oral, 2 times a day. Refills: 0
Contact your Physician Prior to Taking the Following Medications
No problem found
the summary shows good intent to inform the patient, it could be much easier to
read, understand and act on.
Delete the static
many irrelevant words interfere with efforts to find the important information.
The first heading New
Medications is meaningless. It amounts to static interference. The information about meds to start and
stop fits under the third heading:
Medications to Continue Taking That Have Changed; but an
indented subhead - Other
Medications- is inserted between - more static. It’s another
empty field on the form. These headings should automatically delete when the
field is left empty.
Use upper and lower case. All the headings are in title case - all the words
are capitalized. A capital letter signals the brain to stop and start something
new. We recognize words by their shape. The cap changes the shape, and so slows
reading and reduces comprehension.
It is odd that the proper names of the medications are not capitalized,
but then in parentheses they are.
Use active voice and a verb in instructions. Medications to Continue with No
Changes is a label. A call to
action is more understandable and actionable: Keep taking these medications with no changes:
Make the changes clear. The information under START and STOP is very similar.
It requires careful examination of every word and symbol to discern that the
instruction is to take one a day instead of two. Few understand mg. Many
do not understand oral, or tab(s), or the difference between cap(s)
and tab(s), or the meaning
of delayed release.
Explain when to take the medication. What does 2 times a day mean?
Before breakfast and after breakfast would comply with the instruction, but
that might not be what the prescriber intends.
the Problem List (it’s a nice table on the form with cells
for Onset and Comments). This would be a good place to give the patient and
caregiver information about what these drugs are for. The entry No problems found could leave one wondering
why they are taking all this medication, and whether they should have seen the
Use the Upcoming Appointments form (another nice table with cells for date,
time, location, appointment type(??) and provider. The entry is No Appointment; but Mom has written in April
form reflects an effort to be patient centered and improve compliance.
But it is designed for ease and speed of entry by the provider, rather than for
ease of understanding and right action by the patient and caregiver.