Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

71P Predictors of Health Literacy Among Latinos In Arkansas

Saturday, January 14, 2012
Independence F - I (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Javier Boyas, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Texas at Arlington, Arlington, TX
Purpose: Health literacy refers to an individual's ability to acquire, interpret, and comprehend fundamental health information. Health literacy is now one of the innermost health care challenges and an important method of health communication that is essential for successful health promotion efforts. A number of studies have found that the Latino population had lower than average health literacy levels compared to any other racial or ethnic group. Despite these findings, there is a lack of research that has identified which factors correlate with health literacy among the Latino population. Despite the fact that the Latino population has grown in exponential numbers in Southern states, there is not an empirical health literacy study, to date, that speaks to the contextual experiences of this growing population in this region of the country. The purpose of this study was to address this knowledge gap by examining how individual characteristics, such as acculturation, are associated with health literacy among a non-probability sample of Latinos residing in the state of Arkansas.

Method: The current study utilized cross-sectional data from the 2008 Study on Quality of Life in Arkansas. Several factors were examined as predictors of health literacy. They included: age, education, income, gender, citizenship status, length of time in the U.S., and acculturation. A multiple regression equation was computed. All variables were entered into the model concurrently since it was not hypothesized a priori the relative importance of each predictor variable and its relation to health literacy. Statistical significance was measured at the 95% confidence interval level.

Results: Among the current study's sample (N = 125), nearly 40% of Latinos reported health literacy scores that were either inadequate or marginal. At the bivariate level, health literacy was significantly correlated with acculturation (r = .57), education (r = .32), citizenship status (r = .37), and age (r = -.18), but not gender or income. Multivariate regression results suggest that two factors significantly predicted health literacy levels. The model was significant (F = 8.654, p = .001) and accounted for 35% of the variance. All else held constant, being more acculturated predicted higher levels of health literacy (beta = .46), as did being educated beyond high school (beta = .25).

Conclusion and Implications: Due to the low health literacy levels found in this investigation and others, there is a need to screen for levels of health literacy among Latinos when they interface with the healthcare system. Failing to screen for such skills could have significant negative health consequences. Given that acculturation and health literacy share a significant association, these results may justify creating health literacy promotion and intervention programs that target Latinos who are less acculturated to the English language. Last, policy efforts should continue to focus on increasing levels of education among Latinos and all other racial and ethnic groups since education and health literacy are key determinants of health. Addressing these concerns may provide a path in addressing health disparities among Latinos in the U.S. created by lower levels of acculturation and education.