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Study highlights value of health literacy interventions

A research study published in Sage Digital Health journal aimed to deliver an intervention to improve health awareness for infection prevention, hygiene, and sanitation to assess its impact, and identify the risk of multimorbidity in women of reproductive years from low socio-economic background.

The digital health intervention in Pakistan demonstrated the value of digital health literacy interventions, and revealed insight which may be useful to future research on this topic.

The study’s authors conducted a randomised control trial amongst women aged 15-45 in Pakistan, recruiting a total of 820 women for the baseline survey, with 388 women selected at random for the control group and 360 for the intervention group. The selection criteria were that women should be of reproductive age, should not be receiving primary healthcare services from government providers due to lack of geographical access, and should be from poor socio-economic backgrounds.

91 health workers were recruited from within the community to deliver the programme. This included health literacy booklets to both control and intervention groups, whilst the intervention group were provided with a health literacy video, live video consultancy with specialists, one-on-one training, group training and self-management charts. Content of these interventions centred around COVID awareness and prevention, hygiene and sanitation, self-management of health and chronic diseases, and creating awareness for group and peer support for sustaining health.

By way of assessment, the pre- and post-test survey included items from three sources, which were the “Health Education Impact Questionnaire”, the “National Sanitation and Hygiene Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practices Survey”, and the “Community-Based Assessment of Knowledge, Attitude, Practices and Risk Factors Regarding COVID-19 Survey”. These items assessed various domains including health-directed behaviour, self-monitoring and insight, and protective behaviour against infection.

From the pre- and post-test surveys, the study found that both control and intervention groups “experienced significant improvements after the intervention in the area of sanitation and hygiene”, indicating the value of the health literacy booklet as a tool for improving health literacy “for disadvantaged and semi-literate or illiterate populations”. The impact of the health booklet was also discussed in relation to the “significant improvement” that was seen post-intervention in the areas of health-directed behaviour and health services navigation, reaffirming the usefulness of this style of delivery of health information.

The study concluded that findings confirmed “the value and benefits of digital health literacy interventions”, and that “services must be delivered by recruitment and training of supplementary community health workforce at primary level and integrated with the existing LHW services for greater impact”.

Last month, we wrote an article on New Zealand’s Zero Data initiative, which eliminates data charges for members of the public accessing key health sector websites via their mobile phones, to support those unable to access health information or key health services.

Citation: S. Jafree, A. Muzammil, S. Burhan, N. Bukhari and F. Fischer (2023) Impact of a digital health literacy intervention and risk predictors for multimorbidity among poor women of reproductive years: Results of a randomized-controlled trial, Digital Health, 9:1, 1-21. DOI: 10.1177/20552076221144506.