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) parents at a tertiary care hospital during periods of crucial information exchange.
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 (WBN) parents (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 on NICU 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 (P = .26).
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.
Methods for improving health communication are needed. Studies should evaluate SLHL in a larger NICU population and across different languages and cultures.
Department of Pediatrics, Division of Neonatology, Christiana Care Health System, Newark, Delaware (Ms Mackley and Drs Guillen, Paul, and Locke); Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Mr Winter); and Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Drs Guillen, Paul, and Locke).
Correspondence: Amy Mackley, MSN, RNC-NIC, CCRC, Department of Pediatrics, Division of Neonatology, Christiana Care Health System, 4745 Ogletown-Stanton Rd, MAP 1, Ste 217, Newark, DE 19713 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Institution where work occurred: Christiana Care Health System.
Partially supported by grants from NCRR (5P20RR016472-12) and NIGMS (8 P20 GM103446-12) at the National Institutes of Health, and the state of Delaware.
The authors declare no conflicts of interest.