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In My Language I Am Smart!

  • 2/12/2017 6:47:00 PM
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In My Language I Am Smart!

Xuewei Chen, M.S.

This is an exciting year full of adventure for Mr. and Mrs. Wang. They both retired in China and came to the US to reunite with their daughter. Upon arriving to the US, Mr. and Mrs. Wang encountered so many challenges because of their limited English proficiency and ignorance of US health systems. Every time they need to visit a doctor, their daughter has to be there with them to translate and explain everything. They are proud of their daughter. They want to be supportive of her career instead of relying on her all the time. They tried to find some doctors and nurses who can speak Chinese but it is very difficult. They try to stay healthy and have some preventative medical care. Yet, at the end of the day, the insurance company told them certain services were not covered. How were they supposed to know? Nobody ever told them. Maybe it is better to stay away from any health care visits or preventative medical care.

There are thousands of people in the US that are just like Mr. and Mrs. Wang. Over 21% of the population (more than 60.6 million people) in the US do not speak English at home. Among these, many have limited English proficiency. People with limited English proficiency are having problems understanding medical prescriptions, health media campaigns, or health education programs. No wonder they are spending extra time and money on health care services, experiencing unsatisfactory health care providers, have limited access and use of preventive health care services, and the list goes on and on.

My research goal is to enhance health literacy and health communication among people with limited English proficiency in the US. Before developing tailored interventions to improve their health literacy, we need to accurately measure their health literacy level among Chinese-native speakers who have limited English proficiency.

For an accurate assessment, I will identify which health literacy measurement instrument will yield reliable scores. Many different health literacy measurement tools are out there; however, very few are targeting people with limited English proficiency. I will use three different instruments (one English test, one Chinese test, and one Chinese self-reporting survey) to assess participants' health literacy level and compare the psychometric properties of these instruments. The psychometric properties will tell me which instrument is the best one that can give me the most precise measure. I plan to distribute flyers in Houston Chinese-American communities to recruit 400 adult native-chinese speakers who have limited English proficiency. I will ask them to take three health literacy instruments (20 to 30 minutes to finish).

I believe this project can help us to measure health literacy among people with limited English proficiency more precisely. From there, we can better identify their needs and develop interventions to improve their health literacy and health communication. 



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