Action research identifies best practices for promoting
maternal health literacy
Following is a brief summary of findings from our program
of action research* with home visitation programs that have
Progression to support reflective practice and promote
Home Visiting (MECHV) is an effective channel to promote
maternal health literacy,Overall mothers (N=2572 including 23 men and a few grandparents)
who participated in enhanced home visitation for 12-18 months
achieved significant improvement in their use of information and
Promoting Maternal Health Literacy reduces disparities
Additional findings suggest the intervention reduced disparities
related to literacy and age:
• Lower skilled readers made greater gains than their more
• Teen mothers started at a major disadvantage but made
impressive gains in the first six months of service to nearly
catch up with their more experienced counterparts.
Depression and Maternal Health Literacy closely linked
• Both depressed and not-depressed mothers improved their
management of personal and child health and healthcare.
Depressed mothers made greater gains than not-depressed
mothers, again reducing disparities.
Depression does not interfere with health literacy promotion efforts
• Depression improved slightly but significantly over the service
period. Home visitors were successful in supporting mothers to
overcome multiple barriers to obtain depression treatment,
demonstrating increased understanding and utilization of health
services -- that’s health literacy. Major improvements in health
literacy occurred even when changes in depression were minor,
suggesting the effect on health literacy is separate from the effect
on depression. Read article in Maternal and Child Health Journal
(full text free online).
Maternal Health Literacy may predict child developmental outcomes
Preliminary findings from our current study on the same database as
the above studies suggests maternal health literacy is closely related
to child development, so that efforts to promote health literacy also
promote child development. Stay tuned.
Is it feasible and effective to integrate health literacy promotion
into Medical Home Outreach?
This question is being addressed over the next two years with
Anthem/WellPoint as it pilots the intervention in 12 state Medicaid
managed care organizations. WI is up. TX is next.
Integrating health literacy promotion into Parents As Teachers
curriculum is feasible and effective
That is the preliminary finding from the Parents As Teachers Health
Literacy Demonstration Project that winds up this summer. The
participating Parent Educators and other stakeholders will review
and interpret the results at a Reflection Conference May 11.
* Action research, sometimes called “practitioner research”,
is a reflective process in which practitioners undertake research
to improve their own practice by learning from experience.
The process identifies ineffective practices to drop; promising
practices to hone and finally best practices to disseminate.
See Forest, M.E. & McNiff, J. (2007). Learning and teaching in action.
Health Information and Libraries Journal, 24, 222-226.