Childhood Cancer

You are here

Role of Health Literacy on Psychological Distress in Parents of Newly Diagnosed Pediatric Cancer Patients at Rady Children's Hospital San Diego

University of California, San Diego
Shilpa Nataraj
Grant Type: 
POST Program Grants
Year Awarded: 
Type of Childhood Cancer: 
General Pediatric Cancer
Project Description: 


Health literacy is the ability to acquire, process and understand health-related information to function effectively in the healthcare environment. It has been shown that 36% of U.S. adults have limited health literacy. Health literacy can influence health behaviors and outcomes in various contexts, such as appropriateness of emergency department use and increased barriers to medication in patients with obesity. In the context of cancer, limited health literacy has been associated with decreased health-related quality of life in adults. Newly diagnosed pediatric cancer patients and their families experience significant psychological distress, particularly post-traumatic stress symptoms, during the course of cancer treatment. Furthermore, parents of children with advanced cancer have higher levels of psychological distress, especially if they experience financial hardship, perceive that their child is suffering and perceive that their child's outcomes are not aligned with treatment goals. Also, parents of pediatric cancer patients who reported feeling as they were not able to comprehend received health-information were more likely to have higher levels of psychological distress.

Project Goal

Limited research has been conducted to explore the relationship between health literacy and the degree of the psychological distress parents of pediatric cancer patients experience. In this proposed study, we will investigate the effects of health literacy, acculturation on the parents' distrust in the physician and on the parents and patients' physiological distress.

Results from this study will inform psychosocial interventions tailored to the health literacy and cultural needs of pediatric cancer patients and their families and, ultimately, will mitigate pediatric cancer disparities.

Co-funded by: 
Northwestern Mutual Foundation