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Many Dialysis Patients Short on 'Health Literacy'

Those with least education most likely to lack important information about their care

THURSDAY, May 5, 2011 (HealthDay News) -- About one in six kidney dialysis patients in the United States doesn't understand health information that's important for their well-being, a new study says.

Researchers found that 41 of the 260 dialysis patients (16 percent) in the study had limited health literacy, which refers to the ability to obtain, process and understand health information in order to make appropriate health decisions.

Certain groups of patients were most likely to have low health literacy. Those with less than a high school education had more than a 12-fold increased risk, while blacks and veterans had more than a threefold increased risk, according to Dr. Jamie Green, of the University of Pittsburgh, and colleagues.

The study is published online May 5 in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

The study authors noted that health literacy is especially important for dialysis patients, who must go to treatment sessions several times a week, follow dietary and fluid restrictions, and deal with complex medication regimens.

"We anticipate our findings will increase awareness of the importance of health literacy in patients with kidney disease, stimulate providers to consider [health] literacy when communicating with patients, and lead to future studies to address limitations in health literacy," Green said in a news release from the American Society of Nephrology.

The researchers are currently following dialysis patients to learn how limited health literacy affects adherence to dialysis, the need for kidney transplantation, and the risk of death.

More information

The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality outlines how you can improve your health literacy.

SOURCE: American Society of Nephrology, news release, May 5, 2011
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