Date of Conferral



Doctor of Social Work (DSW)


Social Work


Deborah S. Rice


Low health literacy is a public health crisis, currently, there is limited research on social worker engagement with the low health literate patient. The research questions for this study examined health literacy knowledge in medical social workers and how their MSW curricula built their knowledge of health literacy. It also explored challenges that arise when discharge planning for patients with low health literacy. It also asked what social workers can do to aid patients with limited health literacy during the discharge planning process. This basic qualitative research study used criterion sampling and was informed by the socioecological model. Data collection used 2 focus groups of 12 medical social workers comprised of 11 females and 1 male. Data analysis occurred by categorizing the data then classifying the data into themes based on the research question. Key findings include: (a) social workers have a medium to high level of health literacy; (b) MSW curricula would benefit from health literacy knowledge; and (c) challenges occur in discharge planning with people with low health literacy that include overall knowledge and attitudes of health literacy, sociodemographic variables, and lack of preventative health. Recommendations include standardizing healthcare social worker roles and providing educational opportunities in MSW curricula on health literacy. Implications for social change include improved health outcomes, empowering individuals to take personal responsibility for their healthcare which in the long run can help them overcome chronic disease and other health related anomalies. Social change may be seen with hospital health literacy screening to reduce hospital readmissions decreasing individual healthcare costs and reduce societal healthcare costs.

Included in

Social Work Commons