Health Literacy amongst Ethnic Minority and Majority Women in the Acute Care Setting

Student Author(s)

Anna Holm

Faculty Mentor(s)

Susanne Brooks, MSN, RN, ACCNS-AG and Emilie Dykstra Goris, PhD, RN

Document Type


Event Date



Health literacy rates have a significant impact on patient health outcomes. Lower health literacy levels are associated with decreased medication adherence, increased hospitalization rates, and greater health disparities. The purpose of this study was to examine how health literacy varies between ethnic minority and majority women of comparable educational levels. Nora Pender’s Health Promotion Model served as a foundation for this research since adequate health literacy is an essential component in achieving health promotion outcomes. Pender identifies individual characteristics, including socio-cultural and ethnic factors, as being predictive of health-promoting behaviors. This study applied a prospective and descriptive design, utilizing the Shortened Test of Functional Health Literacy assessment tool to evaluate health literacy levels. The sample of 134 female participants was randomly selected from various acute-care units within a large Midwestern health care system. SPSS was utilized in data analysis to elicit descriptive statistics and a multiple linear regression. No significant difference in health literacy scores existed between ethnic minority and majority women of comparable education levels, which can be concluded based on the p-value greater than 0.05, and a R2 value equal to 0.015. However, differences did exist in educational levels between minority and majority women: only 15 % of minority women had completed a post-high school education as compared to the 32% completion rate by their majority women counterparts. The small number of female, ethnic minority participants limited the ability to obtain significant results. Additionally, it is likely that patients with lower health literacy were less likely to participate in the study, therefore influencing external validity. Implications include the need for health care professionals to assess a variety of patient factors, including education and ethnicity, when considering a patient’s health literacy level. These findings can also provide a foundation for future research that could be conducted on this topic.

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