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J Health Commun. 2012;17 Suppl 3:82-99. doi: 10.1080/10810730.2012.712621.

Low health literacy, limited English proficiency, and health status in Asians, Latinos, and other racial/ethnic groups in California.

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Office of Public Health Studies, John A. Burns School of Medicine, University of Hawai‘i, 1960 East-West Road, Biomed, D-104, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA.


This study estimated health status by low health literacy and limited English proficiency alone and in combination for Latino, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and White respondents in a population-based sample: 48,427 adults from the 2007 California Health Interview Survey, including 3,715 with limited English proficiency. Multivariate logistic models examined self-reported health by health literacy and English proficiency in the full sample and in racial/ethnic subgroups. Overall, 44.9% with limited English proficiency reported low health literacy, versus 13.8% of English speakers. Among the limited English proficient, Chinese respondents had the highest prevalence of low health literacy (68.3%), followed by Latinos (45.3%), Koreans (35.6%), Vietnamese (29.7%), and Whites (18.8%). In the full sample, respondents with both limited English proficiency/low health literacy reported the highest prevalence of poor health (45.1%), followed by limited English proficiency-only (41.1%), low health literacy-only (22.2%), and neither (13.8%), a hierarchy that remained significant in multivariate models. However, subanalyses revealed that limited English proficient Latinos, Vietnamese, and Whites had equal or greater odds of poor health compared with low health literate/limited English proficient respondents. Individuals with both limited English proficiency and low health literacy are at high risk for poor health. Limited English proficiency may carry greater health risk than low health literacy, though important racial/ethnic variations exist.

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