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Diabetes Technol Ther. 2010 Nov;12(11):913-9. doi: 10.1089/dia.2010.0058. Epub 2010 Sep 30.

Health literacy, diabetes self-care, and glycemic control in adults with type 2 diabetes.

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Department of Medicine, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, TN, USA.



Although limited health literacy is a barrier to disease management and has been associated with poor glycemic control, the mechanisms underlying the relationships between health literacy and diabetes outcomes are unknown. We examined the relationships between health literacy, determinants of diabetes self-care, and glycemic control in adults with type 2 diabetes.


Patients with diabetes were recruited from an outpatient primary care clinic. We collected information on demographics, health literacy, diabetes knowledge, diabetes fatalism, social support, and diabetes self-care, and hemoglobin A1c values were extracted from the medical record. Structural equation models tested the predicted pathways linking health literacy to diabetes self-care and glycemic control.


No direct relationship was observed between health literacy and diabetes self-care or glycemic control. Health literacy had a direct effect on social support (r = -0.20, P < 0.05) and through social support had an indirect effect on diabetes self-care (r = -0.07) and on glycemic control (r = -0.01). More diabetes knowledge (r = 0.22, P < 0.05), less fatalism (r = -0.22, P < 0.05), and more social support (r = 0.27, P < 0.01) were independent, direct predictors of diabetes self-care and through self-care were related to glycemic control (r = -0.20, P < 0.05).


Our findings suggest health literacy has an indirect effect on diabetes self-care and glycemic control through its association with social support. This suggests that for patients with limited health literacy, enhancing social support would facilitate diabetes self-care and improved glycemic control.

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