HeLP MN Seniors

Session 6

HeLP MN Seniors: an evidence-based health literacy program for seniors

Anne Beschnett, Outreach Librarian, University of Minnesota Health Science Libraries

Anne presented on experiences with the HeLP MN Seniors (“Health Literacy Program for Minnesota Seniors”), a project done through a partnership between the University of Minnesota Health Sciences Libraries and the Minnesota Health Literacy Partnership and funded through an NLM NN/LM subcontract.  Community partners, including Boutwell Landing Senior Living (where the project was pilot tested) were also key to the project’s success.

Anne presenting
Apologies for the low light!

Anne first gave some basic health literacy information, e.g., that low health literacy is associated with poor health outcomes.  She also shared some of the motivation behind this particular project: seniors have lower health literacy than all other age groups, while in 2009, studies showed that 38% of seniors are using the Internet to find health information.  While that number seems low, it was 18% in an earlier year (maybe 2005?), so it’s certainly a growing part of the population.

The purpose of the HeLP MN Seniors project was to create and pilot test health literacy workshops, creating resources and a curriculum that could be used by other health literacy educators throughout the state and beyond.  They created 2 workshops, each 1.5 hours long.  The first workshop focuses on communicating with providers and teaches seniors how to go into medical appointments well-informed and able to ask questions.  It incorporates the idea of “Ask Me 3,” which encourages the patient to leave an appointment with the answers to “What is my main problem? What do I need to do?  Why is it important for me to do this?”  The second workshop is designed to teach seniors how to search for health information on the Internet, and Anne personally became convinced of the need for this course when one of her pupils asked her “why would would anyone put anything bad on the Internet?”

After talking about the workshops that were the end product of the project, Anne talked a little about the whole process with the intent of providing some info for those who are interested in doing something similar.  The project began with a needs assessment using focus groups.  One of the interesting things that came up was that the seniors often felt worried about their friends’ health literacy skills rather than their own; why that might be is an interesting question.  Anne also noted that a side lesson learned at this point was the importance of good facilitators for keeping the conversation on track!  As a result of the needs assessment, current health topics and drug info were added to the curriculum.

The workshops, piloted at Boutwell, had both pre- and post-evaluation questionnaires.  Originally, they had hoped to do multiple choice in order to also measure health literacy levels, but when those took more than 1/2 hour, they switched to a Likert scale.  Questionnaires were given before and after each workshop.  The project team also hoped to have a post-pilot focus group, but when no one attended (the scheduled time competed with some important social activities!), they sent out a survey which had a 55% response rate.  The survey results, mostly positive, led to some changes in the curriculum, including removal of redundant information & unused tips as well as a lot of background info (which was deemed important for the motivation driving the project, but not as important for the seniors themselves to know).  They also made the materials prettier.

The end result is a curriculum, with the full workshop presentations and scripts, along with support materials that provide information on how to customize the content (for instance, making the workshops shorter, which was also helped, for better or worse, with the ending of Minnesota GoLocal).  The team is now in the process of marketing the materials around Minnesota and beyond.

So if you want to step up, step forward, and try HeLP MN Seniors for yourself and your patrons, check out!