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Low Health Literacy Linked to Mortality in CHF Patients

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, April 28, 2011

The three simple questions the research recommend clinicians ask are:

1. How often do you have someone help you read hospital materials?

2. How often do you have problems learning about your medical condition because of difficulty reading hospital materials?

3. How confident are you filling out forms by yourself?

The researchers mailed questionnaires to Denver-area Kaiser enrollees who had been diagnosed and hospitalized at least once with CHF. Those who didn't respond to e-mail had the questions read to them by telephone. A total of 1,494 eligible enrollees agreed to participate. Answers were stratified in groups of five.

While patients with lower levels of literacy turned out to be older, of lower socioeconomic status, and less likely to have a high school education and higher rates of co-existing illnesses, that wasn't always the case, she says.

Previous studies attempting to measure health literacy have done so with much more complex, interviewer-administered instruments that are impractical in a busy clinic practice, they wrote. That's why this study was unique, Peterson says.

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