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Is there a better way to measure health literacy?

Screening tools used to have a better sense of the health literacy skills of our patients will be explored.
Clipboard with checklist
© IMPACCT consortium

Red flags are easy to use in practice, but are only an indication. Some health professionals suggest screening all patients to assess their level of health literacy.

There are many measures of health literacy, as can be seen on the Boston College Tool Shed, reflecting the many definitions.

For practice purposes there is increasing focus on the validity and reliability of shorter measures with fewer questions to identify people with unmet health literacy needs.

An example of this are the questions developed and validated by Chew et al. (2008) which are:

  1. How often do you have someone (like a family member, friend, hospital/clinic worker or caregiver) help you read hospital materials?
  2. How often do you have problems learning about your medical condition because of difficulty in understanding written information? (problems reading).
  3. How confident are you filling out forms by yourself?

What do you think about using these screening questions in practice? Please leave a comment in the discussion section. Make use of input from the other learners in forming or adapting your opinion by reading the views of your fellow learners.


Chew, L. D., Griffin, J. M., Partin, M. R., Noorbaloochi, S., Grill, J. P., Snyder, A., … & VanRyn, M. (2008). Validation of screening questions for limited health literacy in a large VA outpatient population. Journal of general internal medicine, 23(5), 561-566.

© IMPACCT consortium
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Working with Patients with Limited Health Literacy

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