Low health literacy affects millions of Americans, putting those who are affected at a disadvantage and at risk for poorer health outcomes. Low health literacy can act as a barrier to effective disease self-management; this is especially true for chronic diseases such as heart failure (HF) that require complicated self-care regimens.
This systematic review examined quantitative research literature published between 1999 and 2014 to explore the role of health literacy among HF patients. The specific aims of the systematic review are to (1) describe the prevalence of low health literacy among HF patients, (2) explore the predictors of low health literacy among HF patients, and (3) discuss the relationship between health literacy and HF self-care and common HF outcomes.
A systematic search of the following databases was conducted, PubMed, CINAHL Plus, Embase, PsycINFO, and Scopus, using relevant keywords and clear inclusion and exclusion criteria.
An average of 39% of HF patients have low health literacy. Age, race/ethnicity, years of education, and cognitive function are predictors of health literacy. In addition, adequate health literacy is consistently correlated with higher HF knowledge and higher salt knowledge.
Considering the prevalence of low health literacy among in the HF population, nurses and healthcare professionals need to recognize the consequences of low health literacy and adopt strategies that could minimize its detrimental effect on the patient’s health outcomes.