Understanding health literacy skills in patients with cardiovascular disease and diabetes
Health literacy is the ability to understand and act on health information and is linked to health outcomes. It is unclear how health literacy skills are developed in patients with complex conditions, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The purpose of this grounded theory study was to gain perspectives of both patients and healthcare professionals on how health literacy skills were developed in patients with cardiovascular disease or diabetes. The research questions addressed how knowledge and skills were acquired, the role of digital tools, instructional strategies used by healthcare professionals, and how the instructional strategies of the healthcare professionals matched the learning preferences and needs of the patients. A social ecological framework was used, which underscored the importance of understanding health literacy from multiple sources. Semistructured interviews were conducted on 19 healthcare professionals and 16 patients. Emergent key themes included: (a) social support plays an important role as a learning opportunity; (b) many patients get their information from internet searches; (c) instructional strategies should be personalized, interactive, social, and relevant; and (d) patients are self-directed learners. Linking of these themes led to the development of the health literacy instructional model, which is a 3-step approach, including an emotional support, behavioral approach, and instructional strategy. Social support was the common element in all 3 phases and was perceived to be key to developing health literacy skills, resulting in the key implication for social change. Recommendations are to consider social support in the development of health literacy instructional strategies.