The Health Disparities division of Internal Medicine focuses on involving historically excluded populations in research to improve their health and healthcare. The section is led by Professors of Medicine, Drs. Terry Davis, PhD and Connie Arnold, PhD, who are national leaders in health literacy and health communication. Achievements include the development of the Rapid Estimate of Adult Literacy in Medicine (REALM), and REALM Teen, the most widely used tests for literacy in healthcare medical settings, and user-friendly patient education and provider training materials that are used nationally. We have a productive record of federally funded research developing and implementing literacy and culturally appropriate interventions to improve the health outcomes of vulnerable populations. We enjoy working with patients, providers and community organizations to ensure health promotion strategies are feasible and acceptable.

We are highly committed to providing ongoing leadership in improving health communication and assisting in reducing health disparities.

Drs. Arnold and Davis serve as teachers and mentors of medical students, residents and junior faculty and are frequently invited to give talks to national health organizations. We have a long history of close collaboration with state and national researchers. Our NIH, ACS, PRORI, CDC and HRSA funded research includes improving cancer screening in rural federally qualified health centers, the self-management of diabetes in safety net settings, the use of health coaches to facilitate weight loss in community clinics, improving prescription medication adherence and labeling, improving understanding and acceptance of adult and pediatric immunizations and patient and family caregiver perspectives of Alzheimer and transitions of care from hospital to home. Recent research has also investigated racial and rural disparities in access and acceptance of clinical trials and patient and provider perspectives of patient portals, telemedicine and digital monitoring.

Connie Arnold, PhD

Connie Arnold, PhD

Professor of Internal Medicine, Division Chief of Healthcare Disparities
Terry Davis, PhD

Terry Davis, PhD

Professor of Internal Medicine and Pediatrics, Division Chief of Healthcare Disparities

On a state level we serve as Health Literacy Directors on a NIH-sponsored IDeAS grant, Louisiana Clinical and Translational Science Center (LA CaTS), where we train investigators in 11 academic institutions across the State to develop written and oral health information easier to understand. We founded and continue to lead the North Louisiana Community Advisory Board to connect community leaders with research in Louisiana. Additionally, we are investigators on a NIH-sponsored Community Engagement Alliance Against COVID-19 for the state of Louisiana (LA CEAL) which provides trustworthy, science-based information through active community engagement to residents hardest-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. We were also selected to serve on the Governor’s COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force.

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Local Doctors strive to promote Health Literacy

Drs. Arnold and Davis are working with patients to find out what they need, what makes sense to them and then creating understandable patient education all while impressing on the doctors of the future how important it is that they communicate well. They credit the future generation of doctors as doing a better job in communicating in an understandable way because this has been incorporated into their curriculum.

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Healthcare Disparities

Improving Patient Literacy and Education