Deakin University

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Health literacy : what is it and why is it important to measure?

journal contribution
posted on 2011-08-01, 00:00 authored by R Buchbinder, Roy Batterham, S Ciciriello, S Newman, B Horgan, E Ueffing, T Rader, P Tugwell, Richard OsborneRichard Osborne
This report summarizes the proceedings of the first Outcome Measures in Rheumatology Clinical Trials (OMERACT) Health Literacy Special Interest Group workshop at the OMERACT 10 conference. Health literacy refers to an individual’s capacity to seek, understand, and use health information. Discussion centered on the relevance of health literacy to the rheumatology field; whether measures of health literacy were important in the context of clinical trials and routine care; and, if so, whether disease-specific measures were required. A nominal group process involving 27 workshop participants, comprising a patient group (n = 12) and a healthcare professional and researcher group (n = 15), confirmed that health literacy encompasses a broad range of concepts and skills that existing scales do not measure. It identified the importance and relevance of patient abilities and characteristics, but also health professional factors and broader contextual factors. Sixteen themes were identified: access to information; cognitive capacity; disease; expression/communication; finances; health professionals; health system; information; literacy/numeracy; management skills; medication; patient approach; dealing with problems; psychological characteristics; social supports; and time. Each of these was divided further into subthemes of one or more of the following: knowledge, attitude, attribute, relationship, skill, action, or context. There were virtually no musculoskeletal-specific statements, suggesting that a generic health literacy tool in rheumatology is justified. The detailed concepts across themes provided new and systematic insight into what needs to be done to improve health literacy and consequently reduce health inequalities. These data will be used to derive a more comprehensive measure of health literacy.



Journal of rheumatology






1791 - 1797


Journal of Rheumatology Publishing Co. Ltd.


Toronto, Canada







Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2011, The Journal of Rheumatology