Background: Health Literacy
is the ability to obtain, process, and understand health information to make knowledgeable health decisions.
To determine baseline health literacy
of neonatal intensive care unit (NICU
at a tertiary care hospital during periods of crucial information exchange.
Methods: Health literacy
of English-speaking NICU parents
was assessed using the Newest Vital Sign (NVS) on admission (n = 121) and discharge (n = 59). A quasi-control group of well-baby nursery
(n = 24) and prenatal obstetric clinic (PRE) parents
(n = 18) were included. A single, Likert-style question measured nurses' assessment of parental comprehension with discharge teaching
. Suspected limited health literacy
(SLHL) was defined as the NVS score of 3 or less.
Forty-three percent of parents
admission and 32% at NICU
discharge had SLHL (P
< .01). SLHL for WBN and PRE parents
was 25% and 58%, respectively. Parental age, gender, location, and history of healthcare-related employment were not associated with health literacy
status at any time point. Thirty-nine percent of NICU parents
and 25% of WBN parents
with SLHL at time of admission/infant birth had a college education. Nurse subjective measurement of parental comprehension of discharge instructions was not correlated to the objective measurement of health literacy
Implications for Practice:
SLHL is common during peak time periods of complex health discussion in the NICU
, WBN, and PRE settings. NICU
providers may not accurately gauge parents
' literacy status.
Implications for Research:
Methods for improving health communication are needed. Studies should evaluate SLHL in a larger NICU
population and across different languages and cultures.