Study reveals best ways for pediatricians to educate families


Shari Barkin, M.D., a pediatrician at Brenner Children's Hospital, says physicians who discuss numerous health prevention topics with parents during a well-child visit run the risk of having the parent forget the information quickly.

"The bottom line is that more information is not always better," Barkin said. "During a 15- to 20- minute office visit, we want to take full advantage of the time we spend with parents. We recommend that providers develop a shared agenda with each parent to make sure that children's health topics discussed are meaningful and remembered."

According to research published in the November/December issue of "Ambulatory Pediatrics," Barkin and colleagues studied 861 parents from across the country with children ages 2 to 11. Physicians were asked to discuss several health and wellness topics with the parent. After the visit, both the physician and the parent filled out a survey to relay what was discussed. A month later, the parents were asked to recall what was discussed during the visit.

"The good news is both the provider and the parent agree about what was discussed," said Barkin. "However, parental recall declines with an increased number of topics discussed."

Barkin defined the average number of topics that providers could talk about and parents could remember to be seven. "We found that when physicians discuss more than nine topics, recall goes down. Interestingly, when less than four topics were discussed, the parent remembered more than what was actually talked about during the visit."

"If parents can't remember the advice that has been given, it makes following that advice near impossible," she said. The study was funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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