According to Dexter Campinha-Bacote, M.D., Aetna medical director, "It is gratifying to receive the IHA’s award for our asthma study, which after one month showed a significant improvement in member knowledge for those members who received the easy-to-understand educational materials. Our goal is three-fold: to increase member knowledge of this condition, determine if members can sustain this knowledge, and ultimately conclude whether better knowledge leads to better health outcomes."
This prospective, randomized study, begun in 2007, was a joint study by an Aetna health literacy work group and GlaxoSmithKline, both of which provided funding and other support in completion of the study.
Research shows that people with marginal health literacy have a harder time making decisions about their health. It’s also hard for them to follow their treatment, which is especially critical in the treatment of asthma. Specifically, people with inadequate health literacy and asthma may be less likely to know:
More than 18,000 Aetna members with asthma were invited to participate in the study. Members were randomly assigned to either a "control" group, which received the same care from their doctors, or an "outreach" group, which received materials about asthma that were written in "plain language." Materials in the study used short sentences and were simple, clear and to the point. Findings from the one-month follow-up survey show that the outreach group had a significantly larger increase in asthma knowledge compared to the control group.
Health Literacy an Important Focus
Aetna’s Chief Medical Officer, Troyen Brennan, M.D., noted that across a wide spectrum of diseases, patients with low health literacy have greater difficulty managing chronic conditions. "To address this critical gap, Aetna is actively engaged in numerous activities to help address the problem of inadequate health literacy, and improve the health outcomes of many Americans. This study is encouraging in that it reinforces our commitment to support the plain language approach to written communications to address a diverse audience," said Dr. Brennan.
Additional research is planned to further test the theory that if people better understand their asthma, they can better control it. Better control should lead to better health, as well as reduced use of acute health services and reduced health care costs.
Aetna is one of the nation’s leading diversified health care benefits companies, serving approximately 37.3 million people with information and resources to help them make better informed decisions about their health care. Aetna offers a broad range of traditional and consumer-directed health insurance products and related services, including medical, pharmacy, dental, behavioral health, group life and disability plans, and medical management capabilities and health care management services for Medicaid plans. Our customers include employer groups, individuals, college students, part-time and hourly workers, health plans, governmental units, government-sponsored plans, labor groups and expatriates. www.aetna.com
The Institute for Healthcare Advancement is a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering people to better health. It publishes the "What To Do For Health" book series, self-help health books written at a 3rd to 5th grade reading level. All titles in the series are available in English and Spanish, and the bestselling title, What To Do When Your Child Gets Sick, is also available in Vietnamese, Chinese, and Korean. To learn more, visit their website at www.iha4health.org