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Relationship Between Health Literacy and Chronic Disease Outcomes in a Private Family Practice Setting

1 August 2006


The purpose of this study was to assess the level of health literacy among patients in a private practice family medicine clinic setting. Health literacy is the ability to read, understand and act on health care information, especially in written form. All patients age 18 and over were included in a general profile of health literacy, which attempted to correlate demographic factors with health literacy levels. The study was further meant to assess whether there was a correlation between functional health literacy (the ability of patients to read and comprehend written health care materials) and systolic blood pressure and/or lipid levels among patients diagnosed with hypertension or hyperlipidemia. Data from a subset of patients cul1ed from the larger patient group was included in this second part of the analysis. The working hypotheses were that health literacy levels in the general sample would approximate those found in earlier studies, and that higher levels of functional health literacy would correlate with lower systolic blood pressure and lipid levels. The major goal of the study was to. determine whether current communication techniques being used with this patient population are effective for patients' level of health literacy, particularly with regard to chronic disease management. The study found that the prevalence of inadequate or marginal health literacy in the sample was 4.9 percent. It also identified significant negative correlation between age and health literacy level as measured by the short Test of Functional Health Literacy in Adults (s-TOFHLA). There was no significant correlation found between s-TOFHLA scores and systolic blood pressure or lipid levels, although a high proportion of hypertensive patients fell into the inadequate/marginal health literacy category. The study concluded that while the overall prevalence of inadequate/marginal health literacy in this clinic population appears to be low, the health literacy level of elderly patients does need to be a particular focus.


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