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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

WashU: Effectiveness of Health Referrals Varies with the Basic Needs of Patients

People with more unmet basic needs – such as food, housing and income – are more likely to benefit from a health navigator, 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 surveyed callers to 2-1-1 – a telephone information and referral system – who were given a referral for a preventive health service, such as a mammogram, in addition to referrals for their basic needs. Some participants received only a verbal referral, while others also received a tailored print reminder or a navigator who answered questions and addressed barriers to action.

One month later, participants were asked if they remembered the referral or had contacted it. Among people with the most unmet needs, those who were provided navigators were more likely to have made contact with referrals. That interventions didn’t work as well “may be due to the fact that these individuals are less likely to pay attention to the materials or even remember receiving them, perhaps because they are focused on more pressing problems,” wrote lead author Dr. Matthew W. Kreuter, the Kahn Family Professor of Public Health and associate dean for public health at the Brown School.

“Finding new ways to quickly and accurately identify subgroups of economically vulnerable individuals could help in targeting health disparity-reducing strategies,” he added. “Scientific inquiry has only scratched the surface of this promising area.”

The study was published online Aug. 3 in Preventive Medicine.

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