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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

WashU: Unmet Basic Needs Undermine Health Interventions

Among low-income individuals, those with more unmet basic needs were less likely to act on health referrals for needed health services, according to new research from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.

Matthew Kreuter, PhD, professor of public health in the Brown School and professor of medicine,is a leading expert in health communication. The founder and director of the Health Communication Research Laboratory, he has developed and evaluated a range of
[Photo: Dr. Matthew W. Kreuter]

Researchers followed 510 callers to the 2-1-1 Helpline who needed at least one cancer-related prevention service and had received a verbal referral and printed reminder about the referral in the mail.  The reminder was a four-page color booklet with stories and information tailored to the participant.

Callers with more unmet basic needs — like housing, food, personal and neighborhood safety, and money for necessities and unexpected expenses — reported more stress and were less likely to recall the health referral or act on it. The findings “may reflect participants’ inability to attend to the intervention in the face of higher priority life demands,” wrote Dr. Matthew W. Kreuter, associate dean for public health and Kahn Family Professor of Public Health at the Brown School.

Dr. Kreuter noted that previous studies have shown that tailored communication is more effective because it enhances the recipient’s understanding and appreciation for the message. “But these advantages are lost if people never attend to tailoring in the first place, “ Dr. Kreuter wrote.

The paper was published in the July issue of Health Education Research.

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