Partnership for a Healthier World



TAMPA, FLORIDA, JUNE 24, 2002 – Pfizer Inc today announced the launch of the Florida Health Literacy Study, a two-year program designed to assess the effect of the company’s disease education programs for patients with high blood pressure and/or diabetes. The study will be conducted by researchers at the University of South Florida (USF) College of Public Health in conjunction with the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) and will focus on 28 community health centers throughout the state. Patients will participate in classes, receive interactive educational materials and take part in reinforcement programs designed to help them modify their behavior and increase their knowledge in managing their disease.

Health literacy refers to the ability to read, understand and act upon health care information. Patients with low health literacy skills are more likely to be hospitalized and have poor health outcomes, as well as less likely to obtain preventive care. The estimated cost resulting from low health literacy skills totaled about $73 billion in 1998.1

“Everyone involved should be commended for recognizing health literacy as an important health care issue and providing the resources for the Community Health Centers to address this problem,” said Dr. Marta Pfaffenberger, Chief Medical Officer, Miami Beach Community Health Center, Inc. “The education materials, which are interactive and visually engaging, are generally more effective at educating patients who are not necessarily responsive to traditional health literature.”

The study will assess how well the programs result in improved control of blood sugar and blood pressure levels, knowledge of diabetes and blood pressure and better self-care. Additionally, the study will examine the potential effects of these programs on disease complications and health care costs.

“Pfizer has made a significant commitment to funding long-term research in this area because we believe it will help us all better understand the impact of low health literacy on the length and quality of life,” said Karen Katen, President of Pfizer Global Pharmaceuticals. “Solving a problem of this complexity requires a more complete understanding of how medical outcomes are affected by appropriate patient education and an individual’s increased involvement in their own care. Energetic public/private partnerships represent the best opportunity to gather this kind of information.”

All materials are culturally sensitive and are written at a reading level appropriate for the maximum number of patients. The materials promote proper exercise, healthy eating, and how to take medication as well as regular monitoring of blood glucose and blood pressure levels. All materials are available in English and Spanish.

To participate, patients must be Medicaid recipients between the ages of 18 to 64 and have Type 2 diabetes and/or high blood pressure. Community health centers in both urban and rural areas of Florida were selected based on existing services and patient demographics, and were randomly assigned to either implement the health literacy programs or maintain their current services so that outcomes can be compared. Fourteen health centers are serving as intervention sites and 14 as comparison sites. The participating sites are located in Arcadia, Bonita Springs, Bradenton, Crescent City, Dover, Fort Myers, Interlachen, Keystone Heights, Lehigh Acres, Miami Beach, Myakka, Naranja, Palatka, Parish, Plant City, Ruskin, Sanford, South Dade County and Sumterville.

“The researchers at the University of South Florida, College of Public Health have extensive experience in the development, implementation and evaluation of health education and health promotion programs,” said Judy Genshaft, President of the University of South Florida. “We are pleased to be leading this valuable research that could have significant implications for health care in the state of Florida, and potentially across the country.”

The intervention phase of the FHLS, which is being funded through a Pfizer grant to the University of South Florida College of Public Health, began on March 29 and will run through June 30, 2003. Results are expected in January 2004. The study’s principal investigator is Melinda S. Forthofer, Ph.D, Assistant Professor in the Department of Community and Family Health at the University of South Florida College of Public Health.

The Health Literacy Program is one of three components of Florida: A Healthy State, a new public-private initiative sponsored by Pfizer and the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) that is designed to address the critical health care needs of the State’s Medicaid population. The Florida: A Healthy State program also includes product donation and hospital-based disease management initiatives.

Pfizer Inc discovers, develops, manufactures and markets leading prescription medicines, for humans and animals, and many of the world’s best-known consumer products.

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1. Freidland R. National Academy on an Aging Society 1998.