Patients’ understanding of health information critical in saving lives of new moms

By Sally Crocker

Jamar Web

Every day, about 830 women around the world die from pregnancy or childbirth-related complications.

The number of maternal deaths in the U.S. has more than doubled in the last 30 years, and Texas data is especially concerning, with about 14.6 deaths for every 100,000 births.

Through a new study funded by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities,UNT Health Science Center researcher Dr. Teresa Wagneraims to evaluate the impact of health literacy on this problem.

“Few studies to date have looked at the effect of health literacy on obstetric outcomes,” Dr. Wagner said. “There is a vast amount of medical instruction provided when leaving the hospital which begs the question, ‘Are women understanding how to evaluate if symptoms after childbirth are normal, abnormal or requiring urgent medical attention?’”

Dr. Wagner, Assistant Professor in the UNTHSC School of Public Health and Senior Fellow for Health Literacy with SaferCare Texas, formerly known as the UNTHSC Institute for Patient Safety, has spent much of her career working to bring about change in the ways people navigate and understand the complex health care environment.

Her recommendations for improved health literacy in Texas have received support across the state and are slated for review in the 2019 legislative session.

“There is so much to process when new mothers leave the hospital and head home that it may be challenging to get a good grasp on all the discharge paperwork and homecare instructions,” she said. “Along with the responsibilities of caring for a newborn, new moms may also be facing sleep deprivation and physical and emotional changes. It’s important that women have a clear understanding of warning signs or complications indicating they should call a health care provider or go to the nearest emergency department.”

African American and low-income mothers, as well as women at extremes of the standard maternal age and those from rural areas, are most at risk, Dr. Wagner said.

“Readability, understandability and cultural sensitivity are all important in the way that health information is provided and will be assessed in this new study,” she said.

The project will partner with the UNTHSC Healthy Start program; Family Circle of Care in Tyler, Texas; and the Harris College of Nursing and Health Sciencesat TCU, to evaluate current postpartum education and information through national standards assessment models and personal interviews with both urban and rural patients.

“The innovative aspect of this study is that we will be including women’s own personal perceptions with standard health literacy assessments, to gain firsthand advice and make recommendations on how communications and instructions can be improved as new mothers leave the hospital,” Dr. Wagner said. “The information and opinions they share will be important in helping to improve standards of care for hospitals and keeping mothers safe from preventable harm.”

Recent News

Techstars Demo Day.
  • On Campus
|Dec 1, 2022

Techstars Demo Day brings innovation to the historic stockyards

For the last 13 weeks, the founders of 10 of the world’s most innovative startups have been in Fort Worth perfecting their new physical health technology. They are part of the world’s first physical health accelerator, and now they are ready to show the fruits of their labor. Techstars Demo D...
Dr. Sid O'bryant Award
  • Our People
|Dec 1, 2022

HSC named the winner of the D Magazines 2022 Achievement in Medical Research Award

The extensive research done by Dr. Sid O’Bryant and his team at the Institute of Translational Research has earned the University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth the 2022 Medical Research Award by D Magazine. Dr. O’Bryant, the executive director of the ITR and a professor at t...
Dr. John Licciardone
  • Our People
|Nov 30, 2022

Key study results from HSC’s PRECISION Pain Research Registry published in JAMA Network Open

The Journal of the American Medical Association – Network Open has published findings from a recent HSC study about chronic lower back pain, race and the patient-physician relationship. The study revealed that Black patients reported worse outcomes for low back pain intensity and back-related d...
Ram flyer
  • Community
|Nov 23, 2022

Free pop-up medical, vision and dental clinic is just a week away

  The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth and Remote Area Medical – RAM® — a nonprofit provider of pop-up clinics that delivers free quality dental, vision and medical care to those in need — are bringing the free health care clinic to Dallas on Dec. 3 and 4....