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Low literacy Chinese patients: how are they affected and how do they cope with health matters? A qualitative study.

Lam TP, Cheng YH, Chan YL - BMC Public Health (2004)

Bottom Line: Despite their low literacy, some had their specific ways to overcome the difficulties, for example, drawing symbols to help with the timing of taking the medications.Most of them felt better explanation by the health care workers was most important.It is highly relevant for health care workers to be aware of the low literacy status of their patients and to explain information so that patients understand it.

View Article: PubMed Central - HTML - PubMed

Affiliation: Family Medicine Unit, Department of Medicine, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China. tplam@hku.hk

ABSTRACT

Background: Low literacy is common in Hong Kong and China, especially among the females and the elderly. These are often the patients with the greatest health care needs. However little is known about how low literacy affects the ability of patients to obtain adequate medical care and comply with the recommendations of health professionals.

Methods: Qualitative study of subjects' opinions using semi-structured group and individual interviews. Thirty-six participants took part in 6 group and 9 individual interviews.

Results: Participants' opinions towards low literacy were explored in the interviews. They expressed diverse views on how they perceived low literacy. Some thought they were handicapped by it but others felt it was not a problem. Age, gender, chronic illnesses and their attitudes towards self were found to be major factors affecting their perception. Despite their low literacy, some had their specific ways to overcome the difficulties, for example, drawing symbols to help with the timing of taking the medications. Most of them felt better explanation by the health care workers was most important.

Conclusions: It is highly relevant for health care workers to be aware of the low literacy status of their patients and to explain information so that patients understand it.

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Related in: MedlinePlus

Flowchart for selecting project participants.
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Figure 1: Flowchart for selecting project participants.

Mentions: Participants were recruited from the clinic where one of the authors (TPL) works and is situated in the southern side of the Hong Kong Island. The method of selecting the participants is detailed in Figure 1. Patients with low literacy but different demographic variables were purposively sampled for the study. Our experiences working at the clinic revealed that almost 30% of the attenders, particularly the elderly female patients are of low literacy level. Despite a large number of adult residents never attended formal education in Hong Kong; there is no established definition of low literacy. (Personal communication, Dr MS Chan, Department of Chinese, The University of Hong Kong) Their reading skills were therefore tested to ensure that their literacy level was no more than that of Grade One primary school level. Table 1 shows that more females participated in the study because more female patients attend the clinic and are more representative of the population with no schooling or only a kindergarten level of education.


Low literacy Chinese patients: how are they affected and how do they cope with health matters? A qualitative study.

Lam TP, Cheng YH, Chan YL - BMC Public Health (2004)

Flowchart for selecting project participants.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC425585&req=5

Figure 1: Flowchart for selecting project participants.
Mentions: Participants were recruited from the clinic where one of the authors (TPL) works and is situated in the southern side of the Hong Kong Island. The method of selecting the participants is detailed in Figure 1. Patients with low literacy but different demographic variables were purposively sampled for the study. Our experiences working at the clinic revealed that almost 30% of the attenders, particularly the elderly female patients are of low literacy level. Despite a large number of adult residents never attended formal education in Hong Kong; there is no established definition of low literacy. (Personal communication, Dr MS Chan, Department of Chinese, The University of Hong Kong) Their reading skills were therefore tested to ensure that their literacy level was no more than that of Grade One primary school level. Table 1 shows that more females participated in the study because more female patients attend the clinic and are more representative of the population with no schooling or only a kindergarten level of education.

Bottom Line: Despite their low literacy, some had their specific ways to overcome the difficulties, for example, drawing symbols to help with the timing of taking the medications.Most of them felt better explanation by the health care workers was most important.It is highly relevant for health care workers to be aware of the low literacy status of their patients and to explain information so that patients understand it.

View Article: PubMed Central - HTML - PubMed

Affiliation: Family Medicine Unit, Department of Medicine, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China. tplam@hku.hk

ABSTRACT

Background: Low literacy is common in Hong Kong and China, especially among the females and the elderly. These are often the patients with the greatest health care needs. However little is known about how low literacy affects the ability of patients to obtain adequate medical care and comply with the recommendations of health professionals.

Methods: Qualitative study of subjects' opinions using semi-structured group and individual interviews. Thirty-six participants took part in 6 group and 9 individual interviews.

Results: Participants' opinions towards low literacy were explored in the interviews. They expressed diverse views on how they perceived low literacy. Some thought they were handicapped by it but others felt it was not a problem. Age, gender, chronic illnesses and their attitudes towards self were found to be major factors affecting their perception. Despite their low literacy, some had their specific ways to overcome the difficulties, for example, drawing symbols to help with the timing of taking the medications. Most of them felt better explanation by the health care workers was most important.

Conclusions: It is highly relevant for health care workers to be aware of the low literacy status of their patients and to explain information so that patients understand it.

Show MeSH
Related in: MedlinePlus