The impact of traditional literacy and education on health literacy in adolescents with asthma

Desha M. Jordan, Jeana S. Bush, Dennis Randall Ownby, Jennifer L Waller, Martha S Tingen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Introduction: People with low health literacy have poorer self-management of chronic diseases like asthma. Studies of parent health literacy and education level on the management of children’s chronic illnesses reveal inconclusive results. We hypothesized a correlation between parent and adolescent health literacy in teens with asthma. Methods: Sociodemographic data were obtained; health literacy was assessed on adolescents and parents with three instruments: Rapid Estimate of Adolescent/Adult Literacy in Medicine (REALM), Single Item Literacy Screener (SILS) and Newest Vital Sign (NVS). Agreement between scores was examined by calculating weighted kappa statistics and performing Bowkers test of symmetry. Results: In all, 243 adolescents and 203 parents completed health literacy assessments yielding 198 paired observations. 9th–12th graders, 60.6% female, 72.7% African-American (AA), mean age: 15.3 years (±0.9). Parent education ranged from < high school (19.1%) to college graduate (24.0%). Agreement between adolescent and parent scores was poor: REALM (κw = 0.26), SILS (κw = 0.12), and NVS (κw = 0.29) and disagreement did not significantly differ by race. Positive correlations of moderate strength (overall and between racial groups) were found between reading scores and both REALM and NVS scores, and between REALM and NVS scores. Due to the inverse relationship of SILS scores with health literacy level, SILS scores (overall and between racial groups) were weakly and negatively correlated with reading scores, REALM and NVS. Conclusion: Correlation between education level and traditional literacy suggests that these are contributing factors to the health literacy of adolescents with asthma. Correlation between adolescent and caregiver health literacy was not supported.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)882-890
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Asthma
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 3 2019


  • Adolescents
  • African-American
  • asthma
  • caregivers
  • health literacy
  • rural

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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