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Chest. 1998 Oct;114(4):1008-15.

Inadequate literacy is a barrier to asthma knowledge and self-care.

Author information

  • 1Department of Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA 30303, USA.

Abstract

STUDY OBJECTIVES:

To determine the relationship of literacy to asthma knowledge and ability to use a metered-dose inhaler (MDI) among patients with asthma.

DESIGN:

Cross-sectional survey.

SETTING:

Emergency department and asthma clinic at an urban public hospital.

PATIENTS:

Convenience sample of 273 patients presenting to the emergency department for an asthma exacerbation and 210 patients presenting to a specialized asthma clinic for routine care.

INTERVENTIONS:

Measurement of literacy with the Rapid Estimate of Adult Literacy in Medicine, asthma knowledge (20 question oral test), and demonstration of MDI technique (six-item assessment).

MEASUREMENTS AND RESULTS:

Only 27% of patients read at the high-school level, although two thirds reported being high-school graduates; 33% read at the seventh- to eighth-grade level, 27% at the fourth- to sixth-grade level, and 13% at or below the third-grade level. Mean asthma knowledge scores (+/-SD) were directly related to reading levels: 15.1+/-2.5, 13.9+/-2.5, 13.4+/-2.8, 11.9+/-2.5, respectively (p < 0.01). Patient reading level was the strongest predictor of asthma knowledge score in multivariate analysis. Poor MDI technique (< or =3 correct steps) was found in 89% of patients reading at less than the third-grade level compared with 48% of patients reading at the high-school level. In multivariate regression analyses, reading level was the strongest predictor of MDI technique.

CONCLUSIONS:

Inadequate literacy was common and strongly correlated with poorer knowledge of asthma and improper MDI use.

PMID:
9792569
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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