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Literacy and Perceived Barriers to Medication Taking Among Homeless Mothers and Their Children
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Purpose. The relation of medical literacy to women-reported barriers to taking medication themselves or giving medication to their children was studied.

Methods. Women in 18 homeless shelters in four counties in central North Carolina were recruited. Head-of-household homeless mothers with psychiatric or substance-abuse disorders and dependent children were eligible to participate. Trained interviewers administered a site-specific questionnaire on medication use.

Results. One hundred sixty-four homeless women participated. Forty-two percent of the women were currently taking a medication. Forty-six percent of the women stated that there was a barrier to taking their medications as prescribed. Medical literacy was not significantly related to whether women felt there were barriers to taking a medication. Seventy-five percent of the women reported having one or more children living with them. Thirty-seven percent reported having a child with asthma live with them, and 12% reported having a child with attention-deficit disorder. Forty percent reported a barrier to giving their child a needed medication. Taste was the most commonly reported barrier. Women with lower medical literacy and younger women were significantly more likely to report a barrier to giving their children a needed medication. Over 80% of women listed pharmacists as their first or second choice for receiving drug information orally.

Conclusion. Race and perceived barriers to medication use affected the medication-taking behavior of homeless women, while their age and literacy level affected the reporting rates of the barriers to medication use for their children. Homeless women preferred receiving both written and oral drug information from a physician or a pharmacist. (Authors)
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