Validation of screening questions for limited health literacy in a large VA outpatient population

Lisa D. Chew, Joan M. Griffin, Melissa R. Partin, Siamak Noorbaloochi, Joseph P. Grill, Annamay Snyder, Katharine A. Bradley, Sean M. Nugent, Alisha D. Baines, Michelle Vanryn

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Abstract

OBJECTIVES: Previous studies have shown that a single question may identify individuals with inadequate health literacy. We evaluated and compared the performance of 3 health literacy screening questions for detecting patients with inadequate or marginal health literacy in a large VA population. METHODS: We conducted in-person interviews among a random sample of patients from 4 VA medical centers that included 3 health literacy screening questions and 2 validated health literacy measures. Patients were classified as having inadequate, marginal, or adequate health literacy based on the Short Test of Functional Health Literacy in Adults (S-TOFHLA) and the Rapid Estimate of Adult Literacy in Medicine (REALM). We evaluated the ability of each of 3 questions to detect: 1) inadequate and the combination of "inadequate or marginal" health literacy based on the S-TOFHLA and 2) inadequate and the combination of "inadequate or marginal" health literacy based on the REALM. MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: Of 4,384 patients, 1,796 (41%) completed interviews. The prevalences of inadequate health literacy were 6.8% and 4.2%, based on the S-TOHFLA and REALM, respectively. Comparable prevalences for marginal health literacy were 7.4% and 17%, respectively. For detecting inadequate health literacy, "How confident are you filling out medical forms by yourself?" had the largest area under the Receiver Operating Characteristic Curve (AUROC) of 0.74 (95% CI: 0.69-0.79) and 0.84 (95% CI: 0.79-0.89) based on the S-TOFHLA and REALM, respectively. AUROCs were lower for detecting "inadequate or marginal" health literacy than for detecting inadequate health literacy for each of the 3 questions. CONCLUSION: A single question may be useful for detecting patients with inadequate health literacy in a VA population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)561-566
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of general internal medicine
Volume23
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2008

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Keywords

  • Health literacy
  • Questions
  • Screening
  • Validation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine

Cite this

Chew, L. D., Griffin, J. M., Partin, M. R., Noorbaloochi, S., Grill, J. P., Snyder, A., Bradley, K. A., Nugent, S. M., Baines, A. D., & Vanryn, M. (2008). Validation of screening questions for limited health literacy in a large VA outpatient population. Journal of general internal medicine, 23(5), 561-566. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11606-008-0520-5