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Patient Educ Couns. 1997 Jun;31(2):139-50.

Literacy assessment in a cardiovascular nutrition education setting.

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  • 1Center for Biostatistics and Epidemiology, Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine, Hershey 17033, USA.


We assessed functional literacy of hypercholesterolemic or hypertensive African Americans (n = 339) prior to their participation in a nutrition education program. A word pronunciation and recognition test using 20 common cardiovascular or nutrition terms was first developed based on correlations with standardized reading achievement test scores, then administered to program participants. Nearly half (48%) had word recognition scores equivalent to a < or = 8th grade reading level. Lower scores were associated with less education, lower income, unemployment, heavier work activity if employed, less healthy diets, history of heart disease or diabetes, and higher depression scores (all P < 0.01); several of these associations were independent of education. The educational materials were geared to a 5th to 8th grade reading level. However, when both audiotaped and printed instruction were provided, individuals with reading scores < or = 8th grade preferentially used the tapes. This brief and relatively unobtrusive literacy assessment may help to identify persons who can benefit most from audiovisual approaches to cardiovascular nutrition education.

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