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J Sch Health. 2012 Jan;82(1):28-36. doi: 10.1111/j.1746-1561.2011.00664.x.

Adolescent health literacy: the importance of credible sources for online health information.

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  • 1South Texas Border Health Disparities Center, The University of Texas-Pan American, 2925 Pine Valley Drive, Harlingen, TX 78550, USA. sghaddar@utpa.edu



Little research has examined adolescent health literacy and its relationship with online health information sources. The purpose of this study is to explore health literacy among a predominantly Hispanic adolescent population and to investigate whether exposure to a credible source of online health information, MedlinePlus(®), is associated with higher levels of health literacy.


An online survey was administered to a cross-sectional random sample of high school students in South Texas. Self-reported sociodemographic characteristics and data on health-information-seeking behavior and exposure to MedlinePlus(®) were collected. Health literacy was assessed by eHEALS and the Newest Vital Sign (NVS). Linear and binary logistic regressions were completed.


Of the 261 students who completed the survey, 56% had heard of MedlinePlus(®), 52% had adequate levels of health literacy as measured by NVS, and the mean eHEALS score was 30.6 (possible range 8-40). Health literacy was positively associated with self-efficacy and seeking health information online. Exposure to MedlinePlus(®) was associated with higher eHealth literacy scores (p < .001) and increased the likelihood of having adequate health literacy (odds ratio: 2.1; 95% CI: 1.1, 4.1).


Exposure to a credible source of online health information is associated with higher levels of health literacy. The incorporation of a credible online health information resource into school health education curricula is a promising approach for promoting health literacy.

© 2011, American School Health Association.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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