health literacy

In a recently published study, researchers in Japan investigate how health literacy affects our perceptions of our primary health care.

Researchers define health literacy as the degree to which individuals can obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services. It is a route through which patients may make informed decisions about their treatment options. According to the researchers, the gaps in the health literacy of a patient are commonly met by health professionals in the primary care setting.  But what if the influence goes both ways?  The evidence is deficient regarding the impact of health literacy on the opinion of the patient surrounding primary care. Researchers wanted to know if a patient’s health literacy can influence their opinion of the quality of their health care.

To answer this question, researchers surveyed a town in Kanagawa, Japan. The study was question-based and included town residents who were randomly selected from the town register. A total of 381 adult residents with a primary care provider participated in the study.

The data received from the questionnaire was evaluated in a cross-sectional manner. The analysis involved an assessment to measure health literacy in the participants. This scale was the 14-item Health Literacy Scale (HLS-14). The researchers matched the results of the HLS-14 with the measurement of the patient’s experience of primary care using the Japanese version of Primary Care Assessment Tool (JPCAT). This tool is composed of six subjects: the first contact, longitudinally, coordination, comprehensiveness (services available), comprehensiveness (services provided), and community orientation. The analysis also considered the socioeconomic demographic for every participant of the participant to minimise errors in analysis.

The results of this study, recently published in PloS ONE, demonstrated that the health literacy among patients was positively associated with the results of the primary care assessment tool. Out of the six domains of the primary care assessment, it was found to have the most influence on longitudinally and comprehensiveness. The Japanese patients who had higher health literacy also reported an overall better experience at the hospital and reception of primary care.

Through this study, the researchers determined that an increase in patient centred care programs that focus on educating the patients may ultimately help with improving the overall experience and relationship between the patient and the healthcare system.

Written by Dr. Apollina Sharma, MBBS, GradDip EXMD

Aoki, T., & Inoue, M. (2017). Association between health literacy and patient experience of primary care attributes: A cross-sectional study in Japan. PloS one, 12(9), e0184565.

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