Consumer Education Initiatives in Financial and Health Literacy. Key Informant Interviews


To understand existing, completed, and planned federal initiatives associated with financial and health literacy, we conducted interviews with officials from HHS and additional federal agencies. We also interviewed individuals from eight external organizations focused on financial and/or health literacy to get a broader view of these fields. See Table 2 for the names of the agencies and organizations from which we drew our interviewees.


Table 2.
Agencies and organizations that participated in interviews
HHS Agencies
  • Administration for Children and Families (ACF)
  • Administration on Aging (AoA)
  • Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)
  • Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)
  • Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)
  • Indian Health Service (IHS)
  • Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE)
  • Office of Public Health and Science (OPHS)
Other Federal Agencies
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
  • U.S. Department of Education (ED)
  • U.S. Department of the Treasury (Treasury)
  • Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)
  • Federal Reserve Board of Governors (Federal Reserve Board)
Private Organizations
  • AARP
  • Earned Assets Resource Network (EARN)
  • Financial Literacy Center
  • Health Education Council
  • Illinois State University (ISU) Extension
  • National Council on Aging (NCOA)
  • National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE)
  • NeighborWorks America
  • Stanford Chronic Disease Self-Management Program

To identify potential initiatives of interest for the study, we developed priorities for inclusion based on the projects focus on assisting low-income persons with financial and health decision making (see Table 2). Based on input from the chair of the HHS Health Literacy Work Group (HLWG) and a web scan of federal agencies, we developed a database of initiatives, including the agency or organization name, a description of the initiative, its focus on financial or health literacy (or both), target audiences, whether the initiative sought to change behaviors and/or improve skills, and links to information. The initial list contained 112 initiatives across 13 HHS agencies, six additional federal agencies external to HHS, and 12 private organizations. On the basis of input from the Task Order Officers and comparison of the list to initiative priorities, we narrowed the list to 59 initiatives that met the inclusion criteria.

We conducted a total of 35 interviews with 46 individuals during March through August 2010. On the basis of these interviews, we gathered information on a total of 38 initiatives from 13 federal agencies and eight private organizations. For two interviews, we grouped multiple initiatives if they lacked specific titles or if there were multiple similar initiatives at a given agency. For example, we grouped multiple consumer education initiatives and campaigns at AHRQ, since the participants described them in general terms. We also grouped CMSs Compare web-sites  Nursing Home Compare, Hospital Compare, and Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Finder  and considered them as a single initiative because of the similarity among their goals and methods. Our response rate for our interview requests was 84%.

For the interviews, we used a semi-structured protocol that covered the following topics: participants roles and responsibilities, background and goals of the initiative, target populations, behaviors that the initiative promoted, coordination with other government divisions, activities to determine effectiveness and success, lessons learned, unanticipated outcomes, and completed and ongoing research (see Appendix B for the protocol). We did not ask the same questions of more than nine nonfederal respondents, in compliance with Paperwork Reduction Act rules.

Each interview was audio recorded. A note taker was present and prepared a written transcript of the discussion. Information from the interview was then entered into a spreadsheet, organized by the specific topic areas in the protocol, and reviewed to identify themes, trends, and relationships among observations.

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