More than 90 million adults in the United States have low health literacy, as do one in five citizens of the United Kingdom and sixty percent of Canadian citizens, according to the World Health Organization. This means that they don’t know where or how to get medical information that they can understand, how to communicate effectively with their health care providers, or how their healthcare system works. This costs them a lot of money every year, and affects their health; they may go to the hospital more often, and have poorer health overall. Experts have consistently shown that the greater one’s health literacy, the easier it is to make cost-effective health care decisions. The concept applies to more than just decisions made about one’s physical health; it can also be said to apply to the health of one’s relationships as well: relationship literacy.
Such literacy is at the core of the College of Family, Home, and Social Science’s mission. Part of the development of that literacy involves educating the psychologists and family therapists of tomorrow. Those future therapists learn how to help marriages that have lost their strength become strong again. Countless practicing providers today health marriages and families worldwide, yet it remains murky territory for many. What happens in therapy? Will it help? Perhaps most pressing, how much will it cost? D. Russell Crane, a professor in the college’s School of Family Life, recognizes the urgency of these questions and strives to alleviate the concern they often cause.
He recently published a book chapter on the topic with Jacob D. Christenson of Mount Mercy University. The chapter explored the means by which researchers could increase the cost-effectiveness of different therapy methods and practices. This process is even more difficult than it sounds, he says, because researchers are often resistant to “monetizing” their interventions, can be unfamiliar with cost evaluation methods, or maybe feel uncomfortable with the complexity of some of the calculations. But Dr. Crane argues that, while these concerns are sometimes understandable, it’s in the best interest of all involved to make strides in analyzing cost-effectiveness, from the perspective of the individual affected, their therapist, their insurance providers, and the employers with whom they work to provide that insurance. An increased effort in this regard, he says, could allow therapists to provide more effective treatments, patients to afford them more easily, and insurance companies to expand coverage.
Dr. Crane’s publication comes at an opportune time. A recent survey conducted by the school found that one in four spouses had thought about divorce in the past six months. There is a strong need for marriage therapy, and for increased literacy regarding its benefits and costs. The college provides a number of research and practical resources to help married couples develop that literacy. They include:
- the Comprehensive Clinic
- the Relate Institute
- the National Divorce Decision-Making Project
- a variety of publications