As a Department of Medicine resident, Jill Huded, MD, spent every week for the past two years at CommunityHealth, a free clinic serving those without insurance in Chicago. Wanting to give back to the organization, she spent the last year evaluating and creating educational handouts for its patient population.
The project was funded by a year-long Schweitzer Fellows for Life Seed Grant. With support from the American Medical Association Foundation, the Chicago Schweitzer Fellows Program offers grants to support new or expanded community service projects that address a community need, include involvement from a medical organization and promote interdisciplinary collaboration.
“It is extremely important to have a tool like handouts when you have limited time with patients,” Dr. Huded said. “The information they contain can empower patients and change the course of their disease. The goal with this project was to revamp the current handouts with language patients could understand and content that is culturally relevant.”
CommunityHealth serves a diverse patient population that speaks Spanish, English and Polish. Concerned that the current educational tools were not at the appropriate health literacy level or culturally tailored, Dr. Huded organized a team of medical students and health professionals to identify and create documents that would replace the handouts.
They met with members of the Health Literacy and Learning Program led by Michael Wolf, PhD, MPH, professor in Medicine-General Internal Medicine and Geriatrics, Center for Healthcare Studies – Institute for Public Health and Medicine and Medical Social Sciences, to brainstorm methods of patient evaluation, material identification and literacy awareness.
After interviewing patients and conducting a survey, Dr. Huded and her team identified the eight topics of greatest interest among the clinic’s patient population – diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, anxiety/stress, depression, arthritic pain, diet and women’s health – and set out to create new handouts.
“We learned that it was extremely difficult to find handouts online on our topics that fit our criteria,” Dr. Huded said. “Many handouts from organizations and federally funded sources didn’t have materials in languages other than English, most didn’t have appropriate graphics and the language was at too high of a reading level than we were trying to achieve. Therefore, most of our documents were made in-house.”
This fall, Dr. Huded and her team assessed the new handout’s readability, graphics and layout, learning motivation and cultural appropriateness. Currently the team is making revisions based on feedback and the new educational materials will be ready by the end of the month. Dr. Huded’s next step is to promote provider awareness of the improved handouts.
“We hope that the educational materials will lead to patients taking ownership of their diseases and empower them to change their health behaviors. The handouts could help open up a conversation between patient and health provider,” she said.