Limited Literacy Revisited Implications for Patient Education


Ann T. Foltz DNS, RN 169 Lakeview Dr., Mid-Florida Lakes, Leesburg, FL 34788


purpose: It is important to determine whether teaching materials are understood and deemed accurate by the cancer patients being served. The authors used a series of patient participatory interviews to evaluate two brochures: Chemotherapy: What It Is and How It Helps by the American Cancer Society; and Helping Yourself During Chemotherapy: 4 Steps for Patients by the National Cancer Institute. The authors sought to determine whether 1) the brochures were clear; 2) differences in presentation were perceived by patients; and 3) differences influenced respondents' understanding and opinions of the brochures.

description of study: A qualitative, focus-group methodology was used. Twelve cancer patients, eight of whom were women and six of whom were African American, were recruited from three outpatient clinics. Participants ranged in age from 31 to 62 years of age, and in education from completion of ninth grade to graduate school. Patients participated in a series of five groups, with a series of semistructured questions about content and format being asked of each group. All sessions were audiotaped. The investigators reviewed data both independently and together to identify content and format evaluations.

results: Findings showed that most participants were drawn first by the National Cancer Institute format; the American Cancer Society brochure was seen as having more information; the two brochures were seen as complementary; some confusion arose from the content of both brochures; and the discussions of emotional and sexual aspects were important.

clinical implications: These findings support the need for simple, clearly written brochures rather than brochures of varying literacy levels. The confusion caused by differences in advice given by the two organizations indicates the need to address specific areas in which dissimilarities exist. Finally, the project demonstrates the utility of patient focus groups for evaluation of patient education material.