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Inadequate Literacy Is a Barrier to Asthma Knowledge and Self-Care FREE TO VIEW

Mark V. Williams; David W. Baker; Eric G. Honig; Theodore M. Lee; Adam Nowlan
Author and Funding Information

Affiliations: From the Department of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA,  From the Department of Medicine, MetroHealth Medical Center, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH.,  From the Department of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA,  From the Department of Medicine, Division of Allergy and Immunology, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA

Mark V. Williams, MD, Department of Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, 69 Butler Str, SE, Atlanta, GA 30303


1998 by the American College of Chest Physicians


Chest. 1998;114(4):1008-1015. doi:10.1378/chest.114.4.1008
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Abstract

Study objectives: To determine the relationship of literacy to asthma knowledge and ability to use a metered-dose inhaler (MDI) among patients with asthma.

Design: Cross-sectional survey.

Setting: Emergency department and asthma clinic at an urban public hospital.

Patients: Convenience sample of 273 patients presenting to the emergency department for an asthma exacerbation and 210 patients presenting to a specialized asthma clinic for routine care.

Interventions: Measurement of literacy with the Rapid Estimate of Adult Literacy in Medicine, asthma knowledge (20 question oral test), and demonstration of MDI technique (six-item assessment).

Measurements and results: Only 27% of patients read at the high-school level, although two thirds reported being high-school graduates; 33% read at the seventh- to eighth-grade level, 27% at the fourth- to sixth-grade level, and 13% at or below the third-grade level. Mean asthma knowledge scores (±SD) were directly related to reading levels: 15.1 ± 2.5, 13.9 ± 2.5, 13.4 ± 2.8, 11.9 ± 2.5, respectively (p < 0.01). Patient reading level was the strongest predictor of asthma knowledge score in multivariate analysis. Poor MDI technique (≤3 correct steps) was found in 89% of patients reading at less than the third-grade level compared with 48% of patients reading at the high-school level. In multivariate regression analyses, reading level was the strongest predictor of MDI technique.

Conclusions: Inadequate literacy was common and strongly correlated with poorer knowledge of asthma and improper MDI use.


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