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Advisors: J Plumb and R Brawer, Jefferson School of Population Health, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, PA


Health literacy is a growing concern in the United States today. The purpose of this study was to identify the current practices and curriculum content incorporated into physician assistant (PA) programs in the Northeast region of the United States. It also aimed to identify opportunities and methods to enhance health literacy in PA curricula. With the number of people with limited health literacy in the millions, it is vital that today’s health care force be educated in ways to identify and address limited health literacy. The physician assistant plays a pivotal role in the care of patients, and thus must receive the proper training to identify and address limited health literacy. An assessment of current practices of physician assistant training programs related to the inclusion of health literacy in the curriculum was completed through a survey of ten Physician Assistant programs located within the Northeast region of the United States. The study identified opportunities and a need to include health literacy education in the physician assistant education. Overall, the schools revealed that health literacy is included at least partially in the specific curricula. A majority of the programs include information regarding increasing awareness of the health literacy problem, oral communication, and written communication, as a portion of their respective health literacy training, while web page usability, and communication techniques such as Teach Back and Ask Me 3, were not incorporated. None of the ten schools identified a stand-alone course for health literacy training, but rather incorporate the topic into courses such as Professional Practice, Medical Interview and Counseling Skills, Underserved Populations, etc. Only a small fraction of curriculum is devoted to health literacy training in the PA programs, with an average amount of time being 3.3 total hours. While many of the schools identified health literacy as a “common sense problem”, the need for training is apparent. With various methods of training from lectures to review after rotations, the physician assistant as a mid-level medical practitioner must be knowledgeable about communication methods and understanding of the patient in order to be an effective caregiver. The data gathered through this survey shows a further need for health literacy training of future physician assistants, as well as a recommendation for the creation of a toolkit by the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA) based off of the American Medical Association (AMA) toolkit, and the inclusion of health literacy as a core competency of physician assistant education.

Presentation: 26 minutes