Health literacy deficits affect half the American patient population and are linked to poor health, ineffective disease management and high rates of hospitalization. Restricted literacy has also been linked with less satisfying medical visits and communication difficulties, particularly in terms of the interpersonal and informational aspects of care. Despite growing attention to these issues by researchers and policy makers, few studies have attempted to conceptualize and assess those aspects of dialogue that challenge persons with low literacy skills, i.e., the oral literacy demand within medical encounters.
The current study uses videotapes and transcripts of 152 prenatal and cancer pretest genetic counseling sessions recorded with simulated clients to develop a conceptual framework to explore oral literacy demand and its consequences for medical interaction and related outcomes. Ninety-six prenatal and 81 genetic counselors – broadly representative of the US National Society of Genetic Counselors – participated in the study. Key elements of the conceptual framework used to define oral literacy demand include: (1) use of unfamiliar technical terms; (2) general language complexity, reflected in the application of Microsoft Word grammar summary statistics to session transcripts; and, (3) structural characteristics of dialogue, including pacing, density, and interactivity. Genetic counselor outcomes include self-ratings of session satisfaction, informativeness, and development of rapport. The simulated clients rated their satisfaction with session communication, the counselor’s effective use of nonverbal skills, and the counselor’s affective demeanor during the session.
Sessions with greater overall technical term use were long and used more complex language reflected in readability indices and multi-syllabic vocabulary (measures averaging p<.05). Sessions with a high proportionate use of technical terms were characterized by shorter visits, high readability demand, slow speech speed, fewer and more dense counselor speaking turns and low interactivity (p<.05). The higher the use of technical terms, and the more dense and less interactive the dialogue, the less satisfied the simulated clients were and the lower their ratings were of counselors’ nonverbal effectiveness and affective demeanor (all relationships p<.05). Counselors’ self-ratings of informativeness were also inversely related to use of technical terms (p< .05).
Just as print material can be made more reader-friendly and effective following established guidelines, the medical dialogue may also be made more patient-centered and meaningful by having providers monitor their vocabulary and language, as well as the structural characteristics of interaction, thereby lowering the literacy demand of routine medical dialogue. These consequences are important for all patients but may be even more so for patients with restricted literacy.
health literacy; oral literacy; patient-provider; communication; genetic counseling; USA
Interest in and debates around health literacy have grown over the last two decades and key to the discussions has been the distinction made between basic functional health literacy, communicative/interactive health literacy and critical health literacy. Of these, critical health literacy is the least well developed and differing interpretations of its constituents and relevance exist. The aim of this study is to rigorously analyse the concept of critical health literacy in order to offer some clarity of definition upon which appropriate theory, well grounded practice and potential measurement tools can be based.
The study uses a theoretical and colloquial evolutionary concept analysis method to systematically identify the features associated with this concept. A unique characteristic of this method is that it practically combines an analysis of the literature with in depth interviews undertaken with practitioners and policy makers who have an interest in the field. The study also analyses how the concept is understood across the contexts of time, place, discipline and use by health professionals, policy makers and academics.
Findings revealed a distinct set of characteristics of advanced personal skills, health knowledge, information skills, effective interaction between service providers and users, informed decision making and empowerment including political action as key features of critical health literacy. The potential consequences of critical health literacy identified are in improving health outcomes, creating more effective use of health services and reducing inequalities in health thus demonstrating the relevance of this concept to public health and health promotion.
While critical health literacy is shown to be a unique concept, there remain significant contextual variations in understanding particularly between academics, practitioners and policy makers. Key attributes presented as part of this concept when it was first introduced in the literature, particularly those around empowerment, social and political action and the existence of the concept at both an individual and population level, have been lost in more recent representations. This has resulted in critical health literacy becoming restricted to a higher order cognitive individual skill rather than a driver for political and social change. The paper argues that in order to retain the uniqueness and usefulness of the concept in practice efforts should be made to avoid this dilution of meaning.
Critical health literacy; Health literacy; Empowerment; Concept analysis
Limited literacy contributes to suboptimal care and outcomes for patients. The Institute of Medicine noted that future work in health literacy should consider multiple literacy skills. However, lacking empirical evidence of the relationship between different literacy skills, reading skills are often used as proxies of literacy in research and practice. Using a community-based sample of 618 individuals residing in Boston, MA and Providence, RI, we conducted a principal component analysis on measures of four literacy skills: reading, numeracy, oral (speaking) and aural (listening) to examine whether and to what extent literacy can, or should, be represented by a single measure. The first principal component represented overall literacy and could only explain 60% of the total variation in literacy skills within individuals. The second principal component differentiated between numeracy/reading and the oral/aural exchange. While reading and numeracy best represent overall literacy, patients’ relative strengths may vary. Those with moderate reading ability may have high oral and aural language skills. Conversely, people who have difficulties speaking with or understanding a provider may read well. Effective communication with patients should rely on both the oral exchange and written health information, and not rely on a single literacy skill.
Health literacy (HL) is an important public health issue. Current measures have drawbacks in length and/or acceptability. The US-developed Newest Vital Sign (NVS) health literacy instrument measures both reading comprehension and numeracy skills using a nutrition label, takes 3 minutes to administer, and has proven to be acceptable to research subjects. This study aimed to amend and validate it for the UK population.
We used a three-stage process; (1) a Delphi study with academic and clinical experts to amend the NVS label to reflect UK nutrition labeling (2) community-based cognitive testing to assess and improve ease of understanding and acceptability of the test (3) validation of the NVS-UK against an accepted standard test of health literacy, the Test of Functional Health Literacy in Adults (TOFHLA) (Pearson’s r and the area under the Receiver Operating Characteristic (ROC) curve) and participant educational level. A sample size calculation indicated that 250 participants would be required. Inclusion criteria were age 18–75 years and ability to converse in English. We excluded people working in the health field and those with impaired vision or inability to undertake the interview due to cognitive impairment or inability to converse in English.
In the Delphi study, 28 experts reached consensus (3 cycles). Cognitive testing (80 participants) yielded an instrument that needed no further refinement. Validation testing (337 participants) showed high internal consistency (Cronbach’s Alpha = 0.74). Validation against the TOFHLA demonstrated a Pearson’s r of 0.49 and an area under the ROC curve of 0.81.
The NVS-UK is a valid measure of HL. Its acceptability and ease of application makes it an ideal tool for use in the UK. It has potential uses in public health research including epidemiological surveys and randomized controlled trials, and in enabling practitioners to tailor care to patient need.
Literacy; Health literacy; Nutrition label; Measure
Most health literacy research to date has assessed health literacy using either general reading tests or text-based appraisals of reading and numeracy skills, yet the definition of health literacy includes domains beyond reading ability. Effective oral communication between doctor and patient is an important component of health literacy, but only recently have efforts been made to develop measures that tap into domains beyond those that can be assessed with text-based measures. Focusing on oral exchange, this paper describes computer-assisted approaches to quantifying word use and the development of three word-use measures that can be used to study health literacy in transcripts of clinical encounters. The measures can be used to assess either the expressed literacy level of patients or the aural literacy demands made by doctors. Importantly, the computer-assisted quantitative measures described here make it possible for word use to be analyzed at a level of detail that human raters would be hard pressed to attain.
Health literacy encompasses several abilities including word recognition, reading comprehension, communication skills, and conceptual knowledge. To date, conceptual knowledge has not been included in oral health literacy research. This study assesses the validity and reliability of a new instrument and describes conceptual oral health knowledge among a sample of low-income adults.
One hundred Baltimore adults were administered the Rapid Estimate of Adult Literacy in Medicine (REALM), Short Test of Functional Health Literacy in Adults (Short-TOFHLA), and a new survey of conceptual oral health knowledge. Respondents were also asked about sociodemographics, dental health, and utilization.
Psychometric analysis was used to identify a subset of oral health knowledge questions from the new survey instrument. The resulting Comprehensive Measure of Oral Health Knowledge (CMOHK) was categorized into three levels of knowledge (poor, fair, good). Nearly one-third of Baltimore adults exhibited the lowest level. CMOHK scores were significantly associated with age, education level, and word recognition (REALM). CMOHKs cores were not associated with reading comprehension (Short-TOFHLA) or dental care visits. Instrument reliability was good (Cronbach alpha = 0.74).
This preliminary study yielded a new measure of oral health conceptual knowledge, available for use in future oral health literacy studies. The author presents a conceptual framework of oral health literacy that separates health literacy into four unique components and places decision-making at the center. Future studies are needed to determine whether this framework is supported by empirical data and leads to improvements in oral health and reductions in health disparities.
adult; dental caries; health knowledge, attitudes, practice; mouth neoplasms; oral health; periodontal diseases; questionnaires
Health literacy has been defined as the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand the basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions. Currently, few studies have validated the causal pathways of determinants of health literacy through the use of statistical modeling. The purpose of the present study was to develop and validate a health literacy model at an individual level that could best explain the determinants of health literacy and the associations between health literacy and health behaviors even health status.
Skill-based health literacy test and a self-administrated questionnaire survey were conducted among 3222 Chinese adult residents. Path analysis was applied to validate the model.
The model explained 38.6% of variance for health literacy, 11.7% for health behavior and 2.3% for health status: (GFI = 0.9990; RMR = 0.0521; χ2 = 10.2151, P = 0.1159). Education has positive and direct effect on prior knowledge (β = 0.324) and health literacy (β = 0.346). Health literacy is also affected by prior knowledge (β = 0.245) and age (β = -0.361). Health literacy is a direct influencing factor of health behavior (β = 0.101). The most important factor of health status is age (β = 0.107). Health behavior and health status have a positive interaction effect.
This model explains the determinants of health literacy and the associations between health literacy and health behaviors well. It could be applied to develop intervention strategies to increase individual health literacy, and then to promote health behavior and health status.
Health literacy; Health behavior; Determinants; Causal pathways
The introduction of the Force Concept Inventory (FCI) by David Hestenes and colleagues in 1992 produced a remarkable impact within the community of physics teachers. An instrument to measure student comprehension of the Newtonian concept of force, the FCI demonstrates that active learning leads to far superior student conceptual learning than didactic lectures. Compared to a working knowledge of physics, biological literacy and illiteracy have an even more direct, dramatic, and personal impact. They shape public research and reproductive health policies, the acceptance or rejection of technological advances, such as vaccinations, genetically modified foods and gene therapies, and, on the personal front, the reasoned evaluation of product claims and lifestyle choices. While many students take biology courses at both the secondary and the college levels, there is little in the way of reliable and valid assessment of the effectiveness of biological education. This lack has important consequences in terms of general bioliteracy and, in turn, for our society. Here we describe the beginning of a community effort to define what a bioliterate person needs to know and to develop, validate, and disseminate a tiered series of instruments collectively known as the Biology Concept Inventory (BCI), which accurately measures student comprehension of concepts in introductory, genetic, molecular, cell, and developmental biology. The BCI should serve as a lever for moving our current educational system in a direction that delivers a deeper conceptual understanding of the fundamental ideas upon which biology and biomedical sciences are based.
science literacy; basic and advanced biological concepts; learning assessment and evaluation; misconceptions; course transformation
This report reviews some of the extensive literature in health literacy, much of it focused on the intersection of low literacy and the understanding of basic health care information. Several articles describe methods for assessing health literacy as well as methods for assessing the readability of texts, although generally these latter have not been developed with health materials in mind. Other studies have looked more closely at the mismatch between patients' literacy levels and the readability of materials intended for use by those patients. A number of studies have investigated the phenomenon of literacy from the perspective of patients' interactions in the health care setting, the disenfranchisement of some patients because of their low literacy skills, the difficulty some patients have in navigating the health care system, the quality of the communication between doctors and their patients including the cultural overlay of such exchanges, and ultimately the effect of low literacy on health outcomes. Finally, the impact of new information technologies has been studied by a number of investigators. There remain many opportunities for conducting further research to gain a better understanding of the complex interactions between general literacy, health literacy, information technologies, and the existing health care infrastructure.
Genomic research is transforming our understanding of the role of genes in health and disease. These advances, and their application to common diseases that affect large segments of the general population, suggest that researchers and practitioners in public health genomics will increasingly be called upon to translate genomic information to individuals with varying levels of health literacy and numeracy. This paper discusses the current state of research regarding public understanding of genetics and genomics, the influence of health literacy and numeracy on genetic communication, and behavioral responses to genetic and genomic information. The existing research suggests that members of the general public have some familiarity with genetic and genomic terms, but have gaps in understanding of underlying concepts. Findings from the limited research base to date indicate that health literacy affects understanding of print and oral communications about genetic and genomic information. Numeracy is also likely to be an important predictor of being able to understand and apply this information, although little research has been conducted in this area to date. In addition, although some research has examined behavior change in response to the receipt of information about genetic risk for familial disorders and genomic susceptibility to common, complex diseases, the effects of health literacy and numeracy on these responses have not been examined. Potential areas in which additional research is needed are identified and practical suggestions for presenting numeric risk information are outlined. Public health genomics researchers and practitioners are uniquely positioned to engage in research that explores how different audiences react to and use genomic risk information.
health literacy; numeracy; health behavior change; genetic communication; genomics
Genomic research is transforming our understanding of the role of genes in health and disease. These advances, and their application to common diseases that affect large segments of the general population, suggest that researchers and practitioners in public health genomics will increasingly be called upon to translate genomic information to individuals with varying levels of health literacy and numeracy. This paper discusses the current state of research regarding public understanding of genetics and genomics, the influence of health literacy and numeracy on genetic communication, and behavioral responses to genetic and genomic information. The existing research suggests that members of the general public have some familiarity with genetic and genomic terms but have gaps in understanding of underlying concepts. Findings from the limited research base to date indicate that health literacy affects understanding of print and oral communications about genetic and genomic information. Numeracy is also likely to be an important predictor of being able to understand and apply this information, although little research has been conducted in this area to date. In addition, although some research has examined behavior change in response to the receipt of information about genetic risk for familial disorders and genomic susceptibility to common, complex diseases, the effects of health literacy and numeracy on these responses have not been examined. Potential areas in which additional research is needed are identified and practical suggestions for presenting numeric risk information are outlined. Public health genomics researchers and practitioners are uniquely positioned to engage in research that explores how different audiences react to and use genomic risk information.
Genetic communication; Genomics; Health behavior change; Health literacy; Numeracy
Health literacy has become an increasingly important concept in public health. We sought to develop a comprehensive measure of health literacy capable of diagnosing health literacy needs across individuals and organisations by utilizing perspectives from the general population, patients, practitioners and policymakers.
Using a validity-driven approach we undertook grounded consultations (workshops and interviews) to identify broad conceptually distinct domains. Questionnaire items were developed directly from the consultation data following a strict process aiming to capture the full range of experiences of people currently engaged in healthcare through to people in the general population. Psychometric analyses included confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) and item response theory. Cognitive interviews were used to ensure questions were understood as intended. Items were initially tested in a calibration sample from community health, home care and hospital settings (N=634) and then in a replication sample (N=405) comprising recent emergency department attendees.
Initially 91 items were generated across 6 scales with agree/disagree response options and 5 scales with difficulty in undertaking tasks response options. Cognitive testing revealed that most items were well understood and only some minor re-wording was required. Psychometric testing of the calibration sample identified 34 poorly performing or conceptually redundant items and they were removed resulting in 10 scales. These were then tested in a replication sample and refined to yield 9 final scales comprising 44 items. A 9-factor CFA model was fitted to these items with no cross-loadings or correlated residuals allowed. Given the very restricted nature of the model, the fit was quite satisfactory: χ2WLSMV(866 d.f.) = 2927, p<0.000, CFI = 0.936, TLI = 0.930, RMSEA = 0.076, and WRMR = 1.698. Final scales included: Feeling understood and supported by healthcare providers; Having sufficient information to manage my health; Actively managing my health; Social support for health; Appraisal of health information; Ability to actively engage with healthcare providers; Navigating the healthcare system; Ability to find good health information; and Understand health information well enough to know what to do.
The HLQ covers 9 conceptually distinct areas of health literacy to assess the needs and challenges of a wide range of people and organisations. Given the validity-driven approach, the HLQ is likely to be useful in surveys, intervention evaluation, and studies of the needs and capabilities of individuals.
Health literacy; Measurement; Assessment; Health competencies; Psychometrics; HLQ
As the use of eHealth grows and diversifies globally, the concept of eHealth literacy – a foundational skill set that underpins the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) for health – becomes more important than ever to understand and advance. EHealth literacy draws our collective attention to the knowledge and complex skill set that is often taken for granted when people interact with technology to address information, focusing our attention on learning and usability issues from the clinical through to population health level. Just as the field of eHealth is dynamic and evolving, so too is the context where eHealth literacy is applied and understood. The original Lily Model of eHealth literacy and scale used to assess it were developed at a time when the first generation of web tools gained prominence before the rise of social media. The rapid shifts in the informational landscape created by Web 2.0 tools and environments suggests it might be time to revisit the concept of eHealth Literacy and consider what a second release might look like.
eHealth literacy, measurement, consumer eHealth, social media
Consumer eHealth interventions are of a growing importance in the individual management of health and health behaviors. However, a range of access, resources, and skills barriers prevent health care consumers from fully engaging in and benefiting from the spectrum of eHealth interventions. Consumers may engage in a range of eHealth tasks, such as participating in health discussion forums and entering information into a personal health record. eHealth literacy names a set of skills and knowledge that are essential for productive interactions with technology-based health tools, such as proficiency in information retrieval strategies, and communicating health concepts effectively.
We propose a theoretical and methodological framework for characterizing complexity of eHealth tasks, which can be used to diagnose and describe literacy barriers and inform the development of solution strategies.
We adapted and integrated two existing theoretical models relevant to the analysis of eHealth literacy into a single framework to systematically categorize and describe task demands and user performance on tasks needed by health care consumers in the information age. The method derived from the framework is applied to (1) code task demands using a cognitive task analysis, and (2) code user performance on tasks. The framework and method are applied to the analysis of a Web-based consumer eHealth task with information-seeking and decision-making demands. We present the results from the in-depth analysis of the task performance of a single user as well as of 20 users on the same task to illustrate both the detailed analysis and the aggregate measures obtained and potential analyses that can be performed using this method.
The analysis shows that the framework can be used to classify task demands as well as the barriers encountered in user performance of the tasks. Our approach can be used to (1) characterize the challenges confronted by participants in performing the tasks, (2) determine the extent to which application of the framework to the cognitive task analysis can predict and explain the problems encountered by participants, and (3) inform revisions to the framework to increase accuracy of predictions.
The results of this illustrative application suggest that the framework is useful for characterizing task complexity and for diagnosing and explaining barriers encountered in task completion. The framework and analytic approach can be a potentially powerful generative research platform to inform development of rigorous eHealth examination and design instruments, such as to assess eHealth competence, to design and evaluate consumer eHealth tools, and to develop an eHealth curriculum.
eHealth; health literacy; cognition; Bloom’s taxonomy; cognitive task analysis; consumer health
The research identified the skills, if any, that health preprofessional students wished to develop after receiving feedback on skill gaps as well as any strategies they intended to use to address these gaps.
A qualitative approach was used to elicit students' reflections on building health information literacy skills. First, the students took the Research Readiness Self-Assessment instrument, which measured their health information literacy, and then they received individually tailored feedback about their scores and skill gaps. Second, students completed a post-assessment survey asking how they intended to close identified gaps in their skills on these. Three trained coders analyzed qualitative comments by 181 students and grouped them into themes relating to “what skills to improve” and “how to improve them.”
Students intended to develop library skills (64% of respondents), Internet skills (63%), and information evaluation skills (63%). Most students reported that they would use library staff members' assistance (55%), but even more respondents (82%) planned to learn the skills by practicing on their own. Getting help from librarians was a much more popular learning strategy than getting assistance from peers (20%) or professors (17%).
The study highlighted the importance of providing health preprofessional students with resources to improve skills on their own, remote access to library staff members, and instruction on the complexity of building health literacy skills, while also building relationships among students, librarians, and faculty.
Attention to the effect of a patient's literacy skills on health care interactions is relatively new. So too are studies of either structural or personal factors that inhibit or support a patient's ability to navigate health services and systems and to advocate for their own needs within a service delivery system. Contributions of the structural environment, of interpersonal dynamics, and of a variety of psychological and sociological factors in the relationship between patients and providers have long been under study. Less frequently examined is the advocacy role expected of patients. However, the complex nature of health care in the U.S. increasingly requires a proactive stance.
This study examined whether four literacy skills (reading, numeracy, speaking, and listening) were associated with patient self-advocacy, a component of health literacy itself, when faced with a hypothetical barrier to scheduling a medical appointment. While all literacy skills were significantly associated with advocacy when examined in isolation, greater speaking and listening skills remained significantly associated with better patient advocacy when all four skills were examined simultaneously. These findings suggest that speaking and listening skills and support for such skills may be important factors to consider when developing patient activation and advocacy skills.
literacy; advocacy; patient activation; speaking; listening
Existing cross-national research on educational attainment does not fully address whether the same level of educational attainment generates the same level of literacy skills in different countries. We analyze literacy skills data for young adults from 19 countries in the 1994–1998 International Adult Literacy Survey and find that in all countries, individuals with a higher level of educational attainment tend to have greater literacy skills. However, there is substantial variation across countries in the size of literacy gaps by levels of educational attainment. In particular, young adults in the United States show the largest literacy gaps. Using two-level hierarchical linear models, we find that cross-national differences in the literacy gap between more- and less-educated individuals are systematically linked to the degree of between-school inequality in school resources (instructional materials, class size, teachers’ experience and certification).
The "hard-to-reach" label has been applied to many different audiences. Persons who have a low socioeconomic status (SES), members of ethnic minorities, and persons who have a low level of literacy often are tagged as "hard-to-reach." The authors identify reasons why these groups have been labelled "hard-to-reach," discuss preconceptions associated with the "hard-to-reach" label, propose alternative conceptualizations of these audiences, and present implications of such conceptualizations for health communication campaigns. Pejorative labels and preconceptions about various groups may lead to depicting these audiences as powerless, apathetic, and isolated. The authors discuss alternative conceptualizations, which highlight the strengths of different audience segments and encourage innovative approaches to the communication process. These alternative conceptualizations emphasize interactive communication, a view of society in which individuals are seen as members of equivalent--albeit different--cultures, and a shift of responsibility for health problems from individuals to social systems. Recommendations for incorporating these alternative concepts into health campaigns include formative research techniques that create a dialogue among participants, more sophisticated segmentation techniques to capture audience diversity, and new roles for mass media that are more interactive and responsive to individual needs.
To discuss the importance of integrating health literacy into rehabilitation practice.
The effectiveness of rehabilitation interventions and clients’ long-term health might depend on various factors, including health literacy. Health literacy is defined as the ability to access, understand, evaluate and communicate information as a way to promote, maintain and improve health in a variety of settings over the life-course. Rehabilitation professionals are often uniformed about and neglect health literacy in their interventions.
The scientific and grey literature on health and, more specifically, rehabilitation and health promotion was reviewed. The Medline, OTDBASE, CINAHL, AMED and MANTIS databases were searched by combining the key word 1) “health literacy” with the key words 2) “rehabilitation”, “physical therapy”, “occupational therapy” or “health promotion”.
Health literacy is one of the foundations of individual health and might have an impact on interventions, the individual and society. All papers addressing both health literacy and rehabilitation (n=10) specifically mentioned that rehabilitation professionals need to consider their clients’ health literacy. Rehabilitation is particularly linked to health literacy because both stress the importance of 1) capacities, functioning, participation and empowerment of clients; 2) holistic approach; 3) client-centred practice; 4) teaching of information and methods; and 5) access to services and equity issues.
Based on these results, we think it is important that rehabilitation professionals be aware of the importance of health literacy and intervene to improve it. The challenge is now to better understand how health literacy influences the effectiveness of rehabilitation and health outcomes.
PMID: 20543020 CAMSID: cams2447
Health literacy; health education; health determinant
Electronic health tools provide little value if the intended users lack the skills to effectively engage them. With nearly half the adult population in the United States and Canada having literacy levels below what is needed to fully engage in an information-rich society, the implications for using information technology to promote health and aid in health care, or for eHealth, are considerable. Engaging with eHealth requires a skill set, or literacy, of its own. The concept of eHealth literacy is introduced and defined as the ability to seek, find, understand, and appraise health information from electronic sources and apply the knowledge gained to addressing or solving a health problem. In this paper, a model of eHealth literacy is introduced, comprised of multiple literacy types, including an outline of a set of fundamental skills consumers require to derive direct benefits from eHealth. A profile of each literacy type with examples of the problems patient-clients might present is provided along with a resource list to aid health practitioners in supporting literacy improvement with their patient-clients across each domain. Facets of the model are illustrated through a set of clinical cases to demonstrate how health practitioners can address eHealth literacy issues in clinical or public health practice. Potential future applications of the model are discussed.
Internet; literacy; public health; health care; electronic health information; evaluation of electronic resources; electronics; telecommunications; consumer health information; patient education; educational status; computer network
Health literacy concerns the knowledge and competences of persons to meet the complex demands of health in modern society. Although its importance is increasingly recognised, there is no consensus about the definition of health literacy or about its conceptual dimensions, which limits the possibilities for measurement and comparison. The aim of the study is to review definitions and models on health literacy to develop an integrated definition and conceptual model capturing the most comprehensive evidence-based dimensions of health literacy.
A systematic literature review was performed to identify definitions and conceptual frameworks of health literacy. A content analysis of the definitions and conceptual frameworks was carried out to identify the central dimensions of health literacy and develop an integrated model.
The review resulted in 17 definitions of health literacy and 12 conceptual models. Based on the content analysis, an integrative conceptual model was developed containing 12 dimensions referring to the knowledge, motivation and competencies of accessing, understanding, appraising and applying health-related information within the healthcare, disease prevention and health promotion setting, respectively.
Based upon this review, a model is proposed integrating medical and public health views of health literacy. The model can serve as a basis for developing health literacy enhancing interventions and provide a conceptual basis for the development and validation of measurement tools, capturing the different dimensions of health literacy within the healthcare, disease prevention and health promotion settings.
There is no special instrument to measure skills-based health literacy where it concerns infectious respiratory diseases. This study aimed to explore and evaluate a new skills-based instrument on health literacy regarding respiratory infectious diseases.
This instrument was designed to measure not only an individual’s reading and numeracy ability, but also their oral communication ability and their ability to use the internet to seek information. Sixteen stimuli materials were selected to enable measurement of the skills, which were sourced from the WHO, China CDC, and Chinese Center of Health Education. The information involved the distribution of epidemics, immunization programs, early symptoms, means of disease prevention, individual’s preventative behavior, use of medications and thermometers, treatment plans and the location of hospitals. Multi-stage stratified cluster sampling was employed to collect participants. Psychometric properties were used to evaluate the reliability and validity of the instrument.
The overall degree of difficulty and discrimination of the instrument were 0.693 and 0.482 respectively. The instrument demonstrated good internal consistency reliability with a Cronbach’s alpha of 0.864. As for validity, six factors were extracted from 30 items, which together explained 47.3% of the instrument’s variance. And based on confirmatory factor analysis, the items were grouped into five subscales representing prose, document, quantitative, oral and internet based information seeking skills (χ2 = 9.200, P>0.05, GFI = 0.998, TLI = 0.988, AGFI = 0.992, RMSEA = 0.028).
The new instrument has good reliability and validity, and it could be used to assess the health literacy regarding respiratory infectious disease status of different groups.
Despite the large volume of research dedicated to understanding chronic low back pain (CLBP), patient outcomes remain modest while healthcare costs continue to rise, creating a major public health burden. Health literacy - the ability to seek, understand and utilise health information - has been identified as an important factor in the course of other chronic conditions and may be important in the aetiology of CLBP. Many of the currently available health literacy measurement tools are limited since they measure narrow aspects of health literacy. The Health Literacy Measurement Scale (HeLMS) was developed recently to measure broader elements of health literacy. The aim of this study was to measure broad elements of health literacy among individuals with CLBP and without LBP using the HeLMS.
Thirty-six community-dwelling adults with CLBP and 44 with no history of LBP responded to the HeLMS. Individuals were recruited as part of a larger community-based spinal health study in Western Australia. Scores for the eight domains of the HeLMS as well as individual item responses were compared between the groups.
HeLMS scores were similar between individuals with and without CLBP for seven of the eight health literacy domains (p > 0.05). However, compared to individuals with no history of LBP, those with CLBP had a significantly lower score in the domain 'Patient attitudes towards their health' (mean difference [95% CI]: 0.46 [0.11-0.82]) and significantly lower scores for each of the individual items within this domain (p < 0.05). Moderate effect sizes ranged from d = 0.47-0.65.
Although no differences were identified in HeLMS scores between the groups for seven of the health literacy domains, adults with CLBP reported greater difficulty in engaging in general positive health behaviours. This aspect of health literacy suggests that self-management support initiatives may benefit individuals with CLBP.
health literacy; low back pain; health information; HeLMS; self-management
Electronic health resources are helpful only when people are able to use them, yet there remain few tools available to assess consumers’ capacity for engaging in eHealth. Over 40% of US and Canadian adults have low basic literacy levels, suggesting that eHealth resources are likely to be inaccessible to large segments of the population. Using information technology for health requires eHealth literacy—the ability to read, use computers, search for information, understand health information, and put it into context. The eHealth Literacy Scale (eHEALS) was designed (1) to assess consumers’ perceived skills at using information technology for health and (2) to aid in determining the fit between eHealth programs and consumers.
The eHEALS is an 8-item measure of eHealth literacy developed to measure consumers’ combined knowledge, comfort, and perceived skills at finding, evaluating, and applying electronic health information to health problems. The objective of the study was to psychometrically evaluate the properties of the eHEALS within a population context. A youth population was chosen as the focus for the initial development primarily because they have high levels of eHealth use and familiarity with information technology tools.
Data were collected at baseline, post-intervention, and 3- and 6-month follow-up using control group data as part of a single session, randomized intervention trial evaluating Web-based eHealth programs. Scale reliability was tested using item analysis for internal consistency (coefficient alpha) and test-retest reliability estimates. Principal components factor analysis was used to determine the theoretical fit of the measures with the data.
A total of 664 participants (370 boys; 294 girls) aged 13 to 21 (mean = 14.95; SD = 1.24) completed the eHEALS at four time points over 6 months. Item analysis was performed on the 8-item scale at baseline, producing a tight fitting scale with α = .88. Item-scale correlations ranged from r = .51 to .76. Test-retest reliability showed modest stability over time from baseline to 6-month follow-up (r = .68 to .40). Principal components analysis produced a single factor solution (56% of variance). Factor loadings ranged from .60 to .84 among the 8 items.
The eHEALS reliably and consistently captures the eHealth literacy concept in repeated administrations, showing promise as tool for assessing consumer comfort and skill in using information technology for health. Within a clinical environment, the eHEALS has the potential to serve as a means of identifying those who may or may not benefit from referrals to an eHealth intervention or resource. Further research needs to examine the applicability of the eHEALS to other populations and settings while exploring the relationship between eHealth literacy and health care outcomes.
Internet; literacy; public health; psychometrics; quantitative evaluation
In spite of improvements in global health over the 20th century, health inequities are increasing. Mounting evidence suggests that reducing health inequities requires taking action on the social determinants of health (SDOH), which include income, education, employment, political empowerment and other factors. This paper introduces an alternative health education curriculum, developed by the US-based non-profit organization Just Health Action, which teaches critical health literacy as a step towards empowering people to achieve health equity. Critical health literacy is defined as an individual's understanding of the SDOH combined with the skills to take action at both the individual and the community level. Prior to describing our curricular framework, we connect the recommendations of the World Health Organization Commission on the SDOH with the objectives of the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion by arguing that achieving them is reliant on critical health literacy. Then we describe our four-part curricular framework for teaching critical health literacy. Part 1, Knowledge, focuses on teaching the SDOH and the paradigm of health as a human right. Part 2, Compass, refers to activities that help students find their own direction as a social change agent. Part 3, Skills, refers to teaching specific advocacy tools and strategies. Part 4, Action, refers to the development and implementation of an action intended to increase health equity by addressing the SDOH. We describe activities that we use to motivate, engage and empower students to take action on the SDOH and provide examples of advocacy skills students have learned and actions they have implemented.
social determinants of health; health equity; advocacy; health education