Low Health Literacy, Social Disadvantage and Low Treatment Adherence in Rheumatoid Arthritis: An Intervention to Improve RA- Specific Health Literacy in At-Risk Groups

Research Opportunity
PhD, Masters by Research, Honours
Number of Honour Places Available
Medicine and Radiology
Western Health
Primary Supervisor Email Number Webpage
Dr Sharon Brennan sbrennan@unimelb.edu.au Personal web page

Project Details

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a painful,debilitating autoimmunedisease, in which the immune system may also attack the cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive and haemopoietic systems. Little is known about what influences the unpredictable clinical course of RA (characterized by exacerbations and remissions), why there is high variability in severity between patients, and why treatment adherence in RA is as low as 40% despite chronic, debilitating pain. The unpredictability of RA and treatment adherence has major implications for patient care and the burden on our healthcare system; effective management of RA offers much potential to reduce the high costs associated with this National Health Priority Area.The social gradient of most chronic diseases is well documented; RA appears to be no exception. However, whether social disadvantage influences the severity of RA is unknown. Furthermore, low health literacy, strongly associated with social disadvantage, reduces patient adherence to treatment, thus increasing the likelihood of unmanaged disease activity; yet, the modifiable factor of health literacy has not been investigated to date.

This PhD or Masters project will identify the baseline magnitude of effect that low health literacy and social disadvantage have on RA severity. Using a clinical trial study design, and implementing ‘teach-back’ (a sustainable and affordable method to improve the quality of practitioner-to-patient health communications) to improve RA-specific health literacy, the candidate will intervene to improve RA-specific health literacy in the most socially disadvantaged patients, with the goal of increasing treatment adherence. The information from this study will be immediately transferable to clinical practice, and enable the target of clinical remission attainable for all patients.The overall aims of this project are to (a) establish the baseline effect of low health literacy and social disadvantage on RA severity and treatment adherence; and (b) investigate whether improving RA-specific health literacy using ‘teach-back’ will increase treatment adherence.

Research Opportunities

PhD, Masters by Research, Honours
Students who are interested in joining this project will need to consider their elegibility as well as other requirements before contacting the supervisor of this research

Graduate Research application

Honours application

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact a supervisor.


Medicine and Radiology

Research Node

Western Health

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