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USciences students help Philadelphia residents get a “Meducation”

By Jenna Pizzi

students in labcoats

Emily Klein HS'15, Kyle Derikito PharmD'16, and Dr. Claudia Parvanta at Health Center 3.

Being able to read the directions on a prescription bottle can be critical in effectively taking medications, but for many Philadelphia residents who can’t read English, it is a guessing game.

Students from University of the Sciences participated in a research project designed to put an end to that dangerous issue for patients with limited English proficiency at city-run health clinics in Philadelphia.

Students who participated in the research project, run by Dr. Claudia Parvanta, chair of the Department of Behavioral Health and Social Sciences at USciences, used the online app Meducation to generate prescription medication information in 16 foreign languages and simplified English. Over the course of two years, more than 60 students participated, testing the patients’ ability to understand medication instructions, assisting in preparing the translated documents, and following up with a phone call two weeks later.

The Philadelphia Department of Public Health selected centers in West Philadelphia, South Philadelphia, North Philadelphia and Northeast Philadelphia with the highest proportion of foreign language use, chiefly Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese, French and Arabic.

The project was run as a clinical trial with a comparison group. The data showed that patients with limited English proficiency who used the translated medication information answered more questions correctly about their medication and reported better adherence than those who received only standard information. They also tended to refill their prescriptions in a more timely manner.

2 students with poster presentation

Danielle Barclay HS'16 and Christine Gayed PharmD'18 present a poster on the in-language prescription information at Research Day.

“Instructions in a language the patient understands seems obvious if we want patients to take their medications correctly. But, it is only part of the adherence equation, as many know,” said Parvanta.

Keith Tagoe PharmD ’16 said he learned that for many who have limited understanding of English, it was important not to assume that they knew the proper way to take a medication, use an inhaler, or drops.

“Some of these communities are really at a disadvantage,” said Dr. Tagoe. “You can’t assume that they already know what they are doing.”

Denisse Vega MPH’16, who assessed staff reaction to the project for her capstone project, found that the medical staff were highly enthusiastic about the Meducation system and for the student help.

“Public health could really benefit from a better integration of health sciences students into delivery of care,” said Vega. “Particularly when there is a match of student language skills and patient needs.”

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