‘Strategies to promote health literacy’ are needed to help people experiencing socioeconomic deprivation to self-manage multiple long-term conditions (MLTCs), a new report suggests.
‘Multiple examples of low health literacy among participants’ were revealed during a study funded by the National Institute for Health Research School for Primary Care Research, which involved patients with MLTCs who are experiencing socioeconomic deprivation, including low income, unemployment and low educational attainment.
‘Some people also lack the knowledge and/or understanding of healthy behaviours to benefit their condition,’ the study found. ‘Health literacy therefore appears to play a significant role in facilitating healthy behaviour.’
Meanwhile, financial barriers associated with low-income, insecure income, loss of employment/occupation and the cost of self-management were also some of the common themes across the studies reviewed.
‘Many participants not only struggled to afford food, but found it increasingly difficult to accommodate the type of diet needed to manage specific conditions,’ the report says. ‘As such, some participants were unable to follow the dietary guidance provided by healthcare professionals and nutritionists.’
Other participants described the challenges associated with having multiple medical appointments to attend which included the time management involved, a lack of access to local health facilities and the costs incurred for attending appointments.
The research also found that people experiencing socioeconomic deprivation who live with MLTCs prioritise certain conditions over others, ‘and report difficulty managing multiple medications, which can lead to poor mental health and wellbeing.’
It advises that ‘interventions targeted to support the mental health issues among people with MLTCs are needed, with a view to preventing the worsening of other long-term conditions.’
The research – Self-management of multiple long-term conditions: A systematic review of the barriers and facilitators amongst people experiencing socioeconomic deprivation – was led by Doctor Abigail Woodward, a research fellow at University College London.
Concluding, the report says: ‘The self-management of MLTCs is challenging for socioeconomically disadvantaged populations due to barriers including financial constraints and health literacy. Future research could explore the experiences of populations with low levels of socioeconomic deprivation, as well as focusing on strategies to promote health literacy among socioeconomically disadvantaged groups; the issues of which are inextricably tied to poor literacy and numeracy skills.’
The authors also call for ‘greater awareness among health professionals of the barriers/challenges of self-management among these populations’, as ‘there is strong evidence to suggest that people with MLTCs who experience socioeconomic deprivation rely more upon health providers to support their medical needs, to maintain some independence.’
It says ‘more recognition of the impact that socioeconomic deprivation has on people’s ability to self-manage from healthcare professionals and researchers will lead to better self-management support and interventions.’