Understanding the NARCOMS Update Surveys – Why we ask what we ask
Did you know that 45% of NARCOMS participants have completed college? On average, persons with MS are more highly educated than the general US population (26% completed college according to the 2010 US Census). However, being educated does not necessarily mean that you can easily understand medical information, or use that information to make an informed health decision. The Spring 2012 Update Survey, which will be released online and mailed out in mid-April, will include new questions on a topic called “Health Literacy.”
A validated set of questions is one that has gone through testing procedures to show that it measures what it was designed to measure no matter:
The same set of questions is used, in the same order and will give reliable and dependable results that can be applied to a general population.
LITERACY VS. HEALTH LITERACY
In general, literacy is a set of reading, writing, basic math, speech, and comprehension skills. We use these skills to function in society each day.
When we apply these skills to a health context, such as reading a label on a prescription bottle or a nutrition label, or understanding self-care instructions,
it is called health literacy. Your health literacy influences your health care decisions. Lower health literacy can make understanding health and treatment options more difficult.
Why is it important to know about the health literacy of the NARCOMS population? You may recall we also recently asked about where you obtain
your health information. This, together with knowing the level of health
literacy, will allow us to:
- Adjust the way we present information to NARCOMS participants, online, in print, and in the surveys, and
- Compare the NARCOMS results with similar research in other populations and other diseases.
We have chosen a set of questions on this topic to compare the results with similar surveys already conducted in other populations. (See the sidebar for a definition of a validated questionnaire we use.) In the three short sections, you’ll see a series of questions that assess health literacy as it relates to reading medical terms; how much you use the internet to access health information; determine what you think about the information you find online; and determine how well you can interpret health information that uses numbers.