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      The Relationship Between Health, Education, and Health Literacy: Results From the Dutch Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey

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          Health literacy has been put forward as a potential mechanism explaining the well-documented relationship between education and health. However, little empirical research has been undertaken to explore this hypothesis. The present study aims to study whether health literacy could be a pathway by which level of education affects health status. Health literacy was measured by the Health Activities and Literacy Scale, using data from a subsample of 5,136 adults between the ages of 25 and 65 years, gathered within the context of the 2007 Dutch Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey. Linear regression analyses were used in separate models to estimate the extent to which health literacy mediates educational disparities in self-reported general health, physical health status, and mental health status as measured by the Short Form-12. Health literacy was found to partially mediate the association between low education and low self-reported health status. As such, improving health literacy may be a useful strategy for reducing disparities in health related to education, as health literacy appears to play a role in explaining the underlying mechanism driving the relationship between low level of education and poor health.

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          Most cited references 15

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          Trends in socioeconomic inequalities in self-assessed health in 10 European countries.

          Changes over time in inequalities in self-reported health are studied for increasingly more countries, but a comprehensive overview encompassing several countries is still lacking. The general aim of this article is to determine whether inequalities in self-assessed health in 10 European countries showed a general tendency either to increase or to decrease between the 1980s and the 1990s and whether trends varied among countries. Data were obtained from nationally representative interview surveys held in Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, England, The Netherlands, West Germany, Austria, Italy, and Spain. The proportion of respondents with self-assessed health less than 'good' was measured in relation to educational level and income level. Inequalities were measured by means of age-standardized prevalence rates and odds ratios (ORs). Socioeconomic inequalities in self-assessed health showed a high degree of stability in European countries. For all countries together, the ORs comparing low with high educational levels remained stable for men (2.61 in the 1980s and 2.54 in the 1990s) but increased slightly for women (from 2.48 to 2.70). The ORs comparing extreme income quintiles increased from 3.13 to 3.37 for men and from 2.43 to 2.86 for women. Increases could be demonstrated most clearly for Italian and Spanish men and women, and for Dutch women, whereas inequalities in health in the Nordic countries showed no tendency to increase. The results underscore the persistent nature of socioeconomic inequalities in health in modern societies. The relatively favourable trends in the Nordic countries suggest that these countries' welfare states were able to buffer many of the adverse effects of economic crises on the health of disadvantaged groups.
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            Literacy and misunderstanding prescription drug labels.

            Health literacy has increasingly been viewed as a patient safety issue and may contribute to medication errors. To examine patients' abilities to understand and demonstrate instructions found on container labels of common prescription medications. Cross-sectional study using in-person, structured interviews. 3 primary care clinics serving mostly indigent populations in Shreveport, Louisiana; Jackson, Michigan; and Chicago, Illinois. 395 English-speaking adults waiting to see their providers. Correct understanding of instructions on 5 container labels; demonstration of 1 label's dosage instructions. Correct understanding of the 5 labels ranged from 67.1% to 91.1%. Patients reading at or below the sixth-grade level (low literacy) were less able to understand all 5 label instructions. Although 70.7% of patients with low literacy correctly stated the instructions, "Take two tablets by mouth twice daily," only 34.7% could demonstrate the number of pills to be taken daily. After potential confounding variables were controlled for, low (adjusted relative risk, 2.32 [95% CI, 1.26 to 4.28]) and marginal (adjusted relative risk, 1.94 [CI, 1.14 to 3.27]) literacy were significantly associated with misunderstanding. Taking a greater number of prescription medications was also statistically significantly associated with misunderstanding (adjusted relative risk, 2.98 [CI, 1.40 to 6.34] for > or =5 medications). The study sample was at high risk for poor health literacy and outcomes. Most participants were women, and all spoke English. The authors did not examine the association between misunderstanding and medication error or evaluate patients' actual prescription drug-taking behaviors. Lower literacy and a greater number of prescription medications were independently associated with misunderstanding the instructions on prescription medication labels.
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              Normative data of the SF-12 health survey with validation using postmyocardial infarction patients in the Dutch population.

              To gain Dutch population norms for the Short Form-12 (SF-12), a generic health status questionnaire, in a random sample of the general population and to validate these in postmyocardial infarction (MI) patients. 2,301 respondents from the general population and 459 post-MI patients completed the Short Form-36 (SF-36), which was used to calculate SF-12 scores. The SF-12 summary scores correlated highly with SF-36 summary scores, demonstrating that these scores explain the same amount of variance in health status. Significant sex differences (P < .001) existed for both the physical component summary (PCS) and the mental component summary (MCS). Multivariate analysis of variance showed a main effect of age in oblique (PCS-12: P < .001; MCS-12: P < .001) and orthogonally rotated PCS scores (PCS-12_uc: P < .001; MCS-12_uc: P = .07). As expected, post-MI patients reported statistically significant and clinically relevant poorer mental (P < .001) and physical functioning (P < .001). Differences were less pronounced for MCS and PCS derived from orthogonal rotation data. When controlling for covariates, MI did not significantly affect PCS-12_uc anymore in orthogonally rotated data, while PCS-12_uc was affected by fewer covariates compared with PCS-12. This study presents Dutch population norms for the SF-12 in a large random population sample obtained from both oblique and orthogonal PCA rotation methods, revealing systematic differences between the results based on these two methods. Furthermore, this study demonstrates the discriminative validity of the SF-12 by showing that post-MI patients differ significantly from the normative population on PCS-12 scores.

                Author and article information

                J Health Commun
                J Health Commun
                Journal of Health Communication
                Taylor & Francis
                4 October 2013
                December 2013
                : 18
                : Suppl 1
                : 172-184
                Centre for Nutrition, Prevention and Health Services, National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), Bilthoven, and The Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research (NIVEL), Utrecht, The Netherlands
                Institute for Social and Preventive Medicine, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
                Department of Public Health, Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
                Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research (NIVEL), Utrecht, The Netherlands
                Centre for Nutrition, Prevention and Health Services, National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), Bilthoven, The Netherlands
                Author notes

                The authors acknowledge Rima Rudd from the Harvard School of Public Health for developing the Health Activities and Literacy Scale (HALS) and Irwin Kirsch and Kentaro Yamamoto from the Educational Testing Service for coding and scaling the HALS for the Dutch Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey (ALL) dataset. The authors thank the Centre for Expertise in Vocational Education and Training (ecbo) for coordinating the ALL data collection in The Netherlands and for sharing their expertise. Funding for this work was provided by the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM).

                Address correspondence to Iris van der Heide, Centre for Nutrition, Prevention and Health Services, National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), Post Box 1, 3720 BA Bilthoven, The Netherlands. E-mail: iris.van.der.heide@ 123456rivm.nl
                © National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM)

                This is an open access article distributed under the Supplemental Terms and Conditions for iOpenAccess articles published in Taylor & Francis journals , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                Research Article

                Communication & Media studies


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