Complete Description:This environmental scan focuses on financial and/or health literacy initiatives for low-income or underserved consumers. AIR conducted a review of literature from 2005 through 2010 and conducted interviews with program officials from Federal agencies and private organizations to develop key findings and lessons learned. Based on the findings, better long-term financial and health outcomes are associated with highly targeted and proactive counseling. Seemingly, conversely, the interviews suggested that materials developed for low-income or low-health literacy audiences may benefit those with higher incomes or health literacy levels, thus developing interventions with low-income and low-health literacy audiences specifically may be the most efficient approach. The literature and interviews also indicated that for complex information or for information aimed at older adults, in-person or phone-based assistance was found more effective than other forms of dissemination. Previous behavior and current self-efficacy is an indicator of future behavior, while self-perception is a poor reflection of financial and health literacy levels. Initiatives that are simple and enjoyable, and that normalize positive financial behaviors are more likely to change behavior. Effective dissemination of information is more challenging than content development. Education assists in managing present difficulties and in preventing future problems. Both the literature and the interviews suggested that interactive activities to reinforce positive health or financial behaviors over the long term helped maintain and sustain these behaviors. Interviews suggested that consumer education should start at an early age and receive reinforcement throughout adulthood. Conversely, the literature suggested counseling provided the greatest benefit to specific situations and audiences, for example, borrowers with the lowest ability to manage finances and the greatest need to do so, The literature also reported only modest results from financial education when it provided a limited number of trainings and when the depth of trainings or the preparation of the educators was limited. Community-based partnerships and collaborations are a central component of effective outreach. There is a demand for increased training and endorsement of standards for financial educators. Communities have trusted sources of health education but often lack a trusted source of financial education.
Author:Elizabeth Frentzel, Deepa Ganachari, Megan Bookhout, Marilyn Moon, Julia Galdo, and Sandra Robinson