2015 Webinar: Health Literacy

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Health literacy is key to making informed decisions in both clinical care and research, and yet it varies greatly among patients and participants. How can practitioners and researchers do their part to improve communication practices to optimize comprehension?  

The "Common Rule" states that "information that is given to the subject or the representative shall be in language understandable to the subject or the representative." Health literacy, defined as the capacity "to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions," is relevant to both clinical care and research. In clinical care, health literacy plays an important role in improving health outcomes. Optimizing health literacy through effective communication with research participants may improve the integrity of the study.

Health literacy is important throughout the course of a clinical research project, from appropriate design and use of informed consent through to determinations about the return of results to subjects. In addition to the existing IRB readability standards that ensure that the consent process fosters subject understanding, new initiatives have been developed to address challenges associated with improving health literacy, including the Clear Communication Index—a health literacy tool created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In this webinar, presenters introduced this tool, as well as the concept of health literacy and strategies for improving readability. The presenters also utilized a case study on the return of research results to illustrate the importance of creating materials with health literacy principles, to improve comprehension among research subjects.

What will I learn?
After attending this webinar, you will be able to:

  • Define health literacy
  • Understand the importance of health literacy in relation to human subjects research, using a case study involving return of results
  • Identify key clear communication criteria that uses the CDC Clear Communication Index
  • Identify issues pertaining to clarity and health literacy issues in research documents

Who should attend?
This intermediate-level webinar was of interest to clinical researchers, IRB members, chairs, and staff, as well as human research protections program staff and researchers.


Cynthia BauerCynthia Baur, PhD, is the senior advisor for health literacy and the senior official for the Plain Writing Act, Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). She chairs the CDC Health Literacy Council and manages the agency’s health literacy web site and blog. Also, she was one of the developers of CDC’s Clear Communication Index and CDC’s online health literacy training courses for health professionals.

She is a co-chair of the HHS Health Literacy Workgroup and co-chair of the Healthy People 2020 Health Communication and Health Information Technology Workgroup and lead editor of the National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy. She was the HHS liaison to the US Department of Education to develop the first-ever health literacy component of the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy. From 2006-2010, she was the Director, Division of Health Communication and Marketing, National Center for Health Marketing, CDC. Dr. Baur received the Health Literacy Hero Award from the Institute for Healthcare Advancement; the Cecilia and Leonard Doak Health Literacy Champion Award from Health Literacy Missouri; and the McGovern Award the American Medical Writers Association. Dr. Baur holds a PhD in Communication from the University of California, San Diego.

Laurie MyersLaurie Myers, MBA, leads health literacy strategy at Merck & Co, Inc., focusing on the integration of health literacy across divisions at Merck in the United States and globally. Key projects include patient labeling, packaging, clinical trials, and patient education. Laurie also represents Merck on several working groups, including the Institute of Medicine Health Literacy Roundtable; as co-lead of the Multi-Regional Clinical Trials Center at Harvard Return of Results Group; and European Medicines Agency lay summaries working group. A passionate spokesperson for health literacy, she regularly represents Merck at external conferences and poster sessions, including the Integrated Healthcare Association heath literacy conference and World Congress Summit to Improve Adherence and Patient Engagement, among others. Laurie will speak about health literacy at PRIM&R’s 2015 Advancing Ethics Research Conference.

Laurie joined Merck in 1999, and has worked in several therapeutic areas in market research, marketing communications, and pharmacy and distribution. She received her MBA in healthcare management from the Wharton School and graduated Magna cum Laude with her BA in psychology from Yale University.

Walter Straus - WebinarWalter L. Straus, MD, MPH, is the Associate Vice President, Clinical Safety and Risk Management 2 at Merck Research Laboratories, Merck & Co, Inc., where he leads a team that conducts research in vaccine-preventable and other infectious diseases, as well as oncology. The work spans early discovery through postlicensure assessments, and he has involvement in issues

ranging from molecular epidemiology, to development of patient-reported outcome measures for use in clinical trials, through to assessment of the safety and effectiveness of marketed products. Additionally, Dr. Straus’ team is involved in epidemiologic assessment of disease in areas of the world normally outside the sphere that has historically characterized pharmaceutical development. This activity has led to his involvement in internal discussions about proper research ethical considerations for research in developing countries. Dr. Straus is a former epidemic intelligence service officer at the CDC, and has served as a consultant to the WHO and other non-governmental organizations. His primary focus is upon ensuring appropriate research protection for vaccine research in developing countries. He serves as a technical consultant to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Center for Education and Research on Therapeutics at the University of Alabama, and holds an adjunct appointment with the Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Straus is a member of PRIM&R’s Board of Directors, previously serving as chair.

Certificates of Attendance

Certificates of attendance will be made available at the conclusion of the webinar. To access the certificate, you must first complete the online evaluation. Such certificates are useful for obtaining continuing education (CE) credits (not Continuing Medical Education credits) from professional associations. Note that guidelines concerning CE credits may differ, and you should consult the appropriate professional association representative for further guidance.

If you would like to receive a certificate of attendance for a previous PRIM&R educational program, please email info@primr.org or call 617.423.4112, ext. 0.

CE Credit for Certified IRB Professional (CIP®) Recertification
Webinar participants holding the CIP® credential who wish to apply credits from this webinar toward CIP® recertification may submit the Certificate of Attendance they received upon completing the online evaluation as documentation of their participation. Participation in this 90-minute webinar counts as 1.5 CE credit hours.

For recertification by CE, CIPs must complete 30 documented hours of continuing education. At least 15 of the 30 hours must either carry credits issued by a recognized accrediting body or have received advanced recognition from the Council for Certification of IRB Professionals (CCIP). Credits from PRIM&R webinars have received such advance recognition, and may be counted towards these 15 hours.

Additional information about CIP® recertification can be found here.

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