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Do You Believe This #2?

These were the Headlines that caught my attention: Parents' Poor Math Skills May Lead to Medication Errors. Could this be true...and if so, how can it be corrected?

Based on a session at the Pediatric Academic Societies Annual Meeting (April 28 2012), researchers have discovered that parents with math skills at or below the third grade level were five times more likely to measure the wrong dose of medication for their child than those with skills at or above the sixth grade level.

Based at the New York University School of Medicine, the research team concluded: "Dosing liquid medications correctly can be especially confusing, as parents may need to understand numerical concepts such as how to convert between different units of measurement, like milliliters, teaspoons and tablespoons. Parents also must accurately use dosing cups, droppers and syringes, many of which vary in their measurement markings and the volume they hold."

Extending prior research results, this study focused on the relationship between both reading and math skills and medication dosing errors. The test groups was 289 parents of children younger than 8 years of age who were prescribed liquid medication after being seen by a pediatrician. Also, after each caregiver was given tests to assess their reading and math skills, researchers watched parents as they measured out the prescribed dose of the medication.

Now, despite the research focus, it is sad enough to learn that about 32% of the parents had low reading skills, while 83% had poor numeracy skills (27% at or below the third grade level!).

The research results: 41% of parents made a dosing error! Parents with math scores at or below the third grade level had "almost a five times increased odds of making a dosing error."

What to do? The researchers suggest: "These findings point to a need to examine whether strategies that specifically address parent math skills can help reduce medication errors in children. In addition, recognition of the importance of addressing numeracy skills may be helpful for health care providers as they seek to improve their communication of medication instructions. For example, having providers review and give parents pictures of dosing instruments filled to the correct amount for that prescription may be beneficial."

No mention is made of how the K-12 education process (which many of these parents experienced) was either responsible or could help. I know, let's make it part of the Common Core Standards...and even add some relevant questions to our final performance exams.

Source: ScienceDaily.com, April 29, 2012