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A qualitative study examining health literacy and chronic illness self-management in Hispanic and non-Hispanic older adults

Authors Jacobs RJ, Ownby RL, Acevedo A, Waldrop-Valverde D

Received 22 February 2017

Accepted for publication 25 March 2017

Published 20 April 2017 Volume 2017:10 Pages 167—177


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Scott Fraser

Robin J Jacobs,1 Raymond L Ownby,2 Amarilis Acevedo,3 Drenna Waldrop-Valverde4

1Department of Family and Community Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX, 2College of Osteopathic Medicine, 3College of Psychology, Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale, FL, 4Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA

Purpose: Chronic illness and low levels of health literacy affect health outcomes for many individuals, particularly older adults and racial/ethnic minorities. This study sought to understand the knowledge, strengths, and areas of need regarding self-management of chronic illness in order to lay the groundwork for content development of an intervention to increase health literacy and maximize patient engagement in chronic disease self-care.
Patients and methods: In-depth, qualitative interviews were conducted in Spanish and English with 25 older adults with various chronic illnesses. Topics included knowledge and understanding of chronic conditions, medications, and disease self-management skills. Qualitative data were coded by searching text and conducting cross-case analysis. An inductive analysis was then employed to allow for the patterns and themes to emerge.
Results: Emerged themes included 1) social support, 2) coping strategies, 3) spirituality, 4) chronic disease health literacy, 5) anger, and 6) depression. While participants had a general overall knowledge of chronic illness, they had deficits in knowledge regarding their own illnesses and medications.
Conclusion: Chronic illness self-management is a complex and dynamic behavioral process. This study identified themes that leverage patient motivation to engage in self-care in a personalized manner. This information will guide the development of an intervention to promote health literacy and optimal disease self-management.

Keywords: health disparities, older adults, resilience, computer interventions, comorbidity, multimorbidity

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