Although the literature is scant, research has shown that lack of patient information is correlated to poor health outcomes. Our own research shows that fewer than half of pregnant women are educated about the signs and symptoms of preeclampsia by their health care providers. (As an aside, we've been working with epidemiologists at the University of Iowa to conduct deeper analysis of our data; this research has been deemed compelling enough that we'll be sharing our findings via an oral presentation at the ISSHP World Congress in Melbourne, Australia.)
Thus, patient education is high on our list of priorities. This includes involving a broad spectrum of health care providers in this effort.
There are many occasions where pregnant women come in contact with health care professionals - childbirth educators, doulas, midwives, and the physicians and nurses they see in clinics, hospitals and offices. Each of these encounters is an opportunity to provide and reinforce information about the warning signs of preeclampsia, why it's important to be attentive to those signs and what action to take. This is our "Continuum of Care Campaign," recognizing that, besides physicians, other care providers may have more time, skills and orientation to provide effective patient education.
Thanks to a grant from the Beckman Coulter Foundation, we have undertaken several strategies in 2010 to focus on patient education along this continuum of care. We're using a beautiful and professional display unit to exhibit at four medical conferences this year. In addition to providing our patient education materials to nurse-midwives (ACNM) , doulas (DONA), childbirth educators (ICEA) and women's health and obstetric nurses (AWHONN), we are also using these and other events to survey health care professionals about their attitudes and behaviors with respect to preeclampsia education for patients. We've already collected over 200 survey responses and expect by the end of the year to have well over 1,000, enough to analyze the data and prepare our findings for publication in 2011.
In June, we attended the first of the conferences in Washington, DC. Our booth enjoyed very high traffic from hundreds of interested nurse-midwives, most of whom had not heard about the Preeclampsia Foundation, but were thrilled to learn of our resources. The "prescription pads" were a huge hit as they saw those as easy, simple ways to send their patients home with the basic signs and symptoms, a place to capture the patient's vitals (BP/proteinuria/weight gain), and encourage her to seek additional credible information at www.preeclampsia.org. Special thanks to new volunteer Kelly Adams who helped staff our booth. If you're interested in volunteering at a future conference, please contact Kara Boeldt, Director of Volunteer Development.
Finally, our brochure campaign will be getting a fresh boost of energy under the guidance of Johanna Aiken, our new coordinator. (And many thanks to our outgoing coordinator, Angie Grospitch, who ably supervised this program for almost two years!) This campaign enrolls volunteers across the country to promote the usage of our patient education resources - brochures, refrigerator magnets, DVDs and symptom "prescription pads" - in various health care settings and along the continuum of care. Johanna will also be working with local and national organizations to secure additional endorsements and distribution channels for the materials. If you're interested in turning the numbers around so that all pregnant women know what warning signs to be diligent about, please contact Johanna Aiken immediately. We need education warriors!