The importance of health literacy in chronic airway disease management

A newly developed health literacy tool is helping to bridge barriers between patients and care providers.

Proper disease management for people with chronic airway conditions can be the difference between staying symptom-free and needing an emergency visit to the hospital. Research led by Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute researcher Dr. Iraj Poureslami underscores the crucial role of health literacy in supporting patient adherence to prescription medications and treatment regimen suggested by respiratory doctors.  

“Self-management practices mean that a person should be able to manage their condition from home,” explains Poureslami. “As such, care providers need to ensure that each patient has a level of understanding, trust in health care recommendations and the necessary skills to properly take their medication and follow instructions to control their chronic condition.”

A relatively new area of research, health literacy can be defined as “the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions.”

Despite the importance of health literacy in disease management, over 60 per cent of Canadian adults aged 19 and older — and 88 per cent of seniors — are impacted by low levels of health literacy that can affect their ability to make informed health decisions, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. 

For his study, published in the journal Respiratory Care, Poureslami and the Canadian Airways Health Literacy Study Group, led by late Dr. J. Mark FitzGerald, developed a performance-based, disease-specific Vancouver Airways Health Literacy Tool (VAHLT) with input from patients and health care professionals. VAHLT is specifically designed to evaluate the level of health literacy skills among people with chronic airway conditions that involve airway and breathing restriction, such as that found in asthma, emphysema, bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Continue reading the VHCRI article here.

VCHRI investigator and C2E2 Researcher Dr. Iraj Poureslami was also featured in the Hospital News for his research on the role of health literacy in respiratory care. Read the December issue online: