HOW DOES THE MATERNAL HEALTH LITERACY AFFECT CHILD PARTICIPATION IN SOCIAL WELFARE PROGRAMS?
In America, more than ninety million adults have their health literacy levels classified as being low. This means, they are unable to read and understand information relating to healthcare and cannot follow the instructions thereof for treatment. Due to the health literacy demands of the application process into programs meant to improve the health of children, under-enrolment has been recorded. The program includes assistance in terms of cash, food and housing. According to the research carried out, it was found out that mothers whose health literacy levels would be classified as poor, had a less likelihood of receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) as compared to those whose literacy levels would be classified as being adequate. It was also found that programs such as those aimed at offering nutritional assistance to women, infants and children whose procedures for enrollment was much more streamlined and institutionalized recorded higher rates of enrollment. The less health-literate mothers had a tendency therefore to avoid enrollment into programs whose procedures of enrollment were fragmented and complex (Pati et al. 2010).
However, in this research, there are factors which are not clear and therefore pose difficulty in establishing the connection between the participation of the child in welfare programs and the maternal health literacy. First, the study failed to analyze the literacy levels that the application process into the programs demanded of the mothers. The study assumed that the programs whose application procedures seemed fragmented and more complex demanded higher health literacy levels than programs whose application procedures were more streamlined and institutionalized. According to Kickbusch (2008), health literacy enables a person to make sensible health decisions in everyday’s life context. Moreover, people are generally known to avoid complex procedures with preference to procedures which are more familiar and simplified. Since most of the mothers were said to enroll more in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), a program whose procedure for enrollment is more streamlined and institutionalized, it cannot clearly be determine whether low health literacy made them avoid the programs with fragmented and complex enrollment procedures.
Secondly, the study covered a single location in Philadelphia. It cannot therefore be generalized that the results of the study would apply to all the other areas. Generalization is also hindered by the population on which the study was carried on. As it is reported, the study covered only about fifty three percent of the population which the study was targeting. It is not possible to determine the results which could have been obtained from a study that would have been carried out on the remaining portion of the population.
Lastly, the measure chosen to carry out the health literacy test was correlated with a literacy assessment measure of a more general nature. The report however has it that general maternal education levels did not influence the participation in the welfare programs. According to Haines and Horrocks (2005) the level of education determines health information literacy because people with higher levels of education generally have ease in obtaining information on health and is therefore more likely to be more informed about health matters than the less educated persons. However, it is noted that higher levels of education do not necessarily translate to high levels of health literacy. It is not possible to rule out the relationship between the levels of education of the mothers and their levels of maternal health literacy.
Haines, M. and Horrocks, G. (2005). Health information literacy and higher education: The King’s College London approach. London: Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
Kickbusch, I. (2008). Health literacy: an essential skill for the twenty-first century. Health Education Vol. 108 No. 2, London: Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
Pati, S., Mohamad, Z., Cnaan, A., Kavanagh, J. and Shea, J. A. (2010). Influence of Maternal Health Literacy on Child Participation in Social Welfare Programs: The Philadelphia Experience. American Journal of Public Health, Washington.
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