Consumer Education Initiatives in Financial and Health Literacy. Target Audiences

12/06/2010

This study design focused on initiatives that either exclusively targeted low-income audiences or that could indirectly benefit this group through services, information, or assistance. Twenty- seven initiatives included low-income individuals as part of their target populations. These 27 initiatives were designed for low-income individuals, for those with low to moderate income, or for individuals at risk of becoming low income. Initiatives also targeted other audiences, such as older adults, immigrants and refugees, and minorities.

Most financial literacy initiatives identified low-income or low- and moderate-income consumers as their primary target. These initiatives mostly comprised cash assistance programs, programs that utilized in-person or direct counseling or assistance, and certain benefits coordination programs. For example, three initiatives under ACFs Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) provided cash assistance and financial counseling to refugees.[6],[7]  The AoAs National Center for Benefits Outreach and Enrollments (NCBOEs) Benefits Enrollment Centers were designed to provide benefits coordination assistance more broadly to consumers with limited means who were receiving public benefits, although not all benefits were restricted to low-income audiences. The National Council on Agings (NCOA) Economic Security Initiative and Reverse Mortgage Counseling Services offered personalized counseling and assistance to low-income and middle-income older adults seeking help with benefits coordination or information about using their home as a source of financing. The National Endowment for Education (NEFE) partnered with Habitat for Humanity to develop the Homeowners Handbook specifically for Habitat for Humanity homeowners, who tend to be low-income individuals.

Health literacy initiatives rarely identified low-income audiences as their foremost target group, most likely because the goal was to improve specific health knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors rather than improve general health literacy. These initiatives were more likely to target individuals with limited health literacy, vulnerable populations, or minority groups with poor health outcomes, or intermediaries, such as family members and caregivers, who assisted consumers with health-related decision making. However, the HealthFinder web-site did target low-income populations as a proxy for audiences with limited health literacy. In addition, AARPs campaigns to educate the elderly on appropriate use of prescription drugs targeted low-income consumers. The Health Education Councils tobacco cessation programs were also geared toward low-income adults, young adults, and individuals in correctional facilities.

Many initiatives (34) were designed to serve multiple underserved populations, including older adults, people with disabilities, immigrants, individuals with low English proficiency, women, minorities, and rural populations. Grantees operations are often able to target the needs of the specific communities in which they are located. As a result, programs may vary broadly by state or by individual community, depending on the programs administration. For example, although the AoAs Pension Counseling and Information Program broadly serves financially disadvantaged individuals, one program grantee has a stronger focus on older women because of the growing proportion of this demographic in the grantees community. Another program grantee chooses to target individuals with limited English proficiency because of the large number of immigrants and non-native English speakers in the grantees geographic area. Each of the eight communities that participate in Treasurys Community Financial Access Pilot is able to determine a specific target group. The USDAs Financial Security program maintains an overarching goal of improving financial stability among consumers but allows each grantee to determine actual activities on the basis of the target communitys needs.

Among the initiatives that serve underserved populations, the following programs targeted older adults: AoAs BenefitsCheckUp®, AoAs Part D Outreach, AOAs Womens Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER) program, AoAs Eldercare Locator, and USDAs Financial Security Program, which initially targeted seniors but has now expanded to wider audiences. In addition, most AARP initiatives target older persons, including pre-retirees (5064 years of age). Initiatives that target minorities include IHSs Education Program, AoAs WISER program, AHRQs public service announcements, and radio station initiatives, and AARPs Financial Freedom Tour and multiple initiatives to promote safe and effective use of medications among seniors. Initiatives that target non-native English speakers include the AoAs WISER program and AHRQs public service announcements initiative. All NCOA initiatives and most AARP initiatives targeted older adults.

The following initiatives had very broad target populations but acknowledged trying to identify particular subgroups within their audiences. Treasurys MyMoney.gov web-site targets all consumers but attempts to break down information by target group (e.g., youth, retirees, women, and military personnel). ASPEs Own Your Future long-term care campaign targets individuals between 40 and 70 years of age. Program staff for this initiative acknowledged the importance of using numerous outreach strategies to accommodate the significant diversity  for example, in income, education, and age  within this broad target population. Among the private organizations included in the study, Stanfords Chronic Disease Self-Management Program has a broad target population of individuals older than 40 years of age, but works extensively with low-income, African American, and Hispanic communities.

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