An understanding of the association of health literacy with patterns related to access and usage of digital technologies and preferences for sources of health information is necessary for public health agencies and organizations to appropriately target channels for health information dissemination.
A cross-sectional telephone survey was conducted in New York State. Health literacy was assessed using the Morris Single-Item Screener, a self-report question. A weighted analysis was conducted utilizing Stata/SE.
The final sample size of New York State residents used for analysis was 1350.
In general, self-report health literacy did not predict digital technology use (ie, Internet and smartphone use, text messaging) but was associated with certain digital activities. People with low self-report health literacy were less likely to use search engines (P = .026) but more likely to get health information from social networking sites (P = .002) and use health-related phone apps (P = .046). With respect to health information seeking, those with lower self-report health literacy reported greater difficulty with their most recent search for health information. Furthermore, they were more likely to prefer text messages (P = .013) and radio (P = .022), 2 text-limited communication channels, to receive health information than those with higher self-report health literacy.
While self-report health literacy does not appear to influence access to and use of digital technologies, there is a strong association with experiences searching for health information and preferences for health information sources. Public health agencies and organizations should consider the needs and preferences of people with low health literacy when determining channels for health information dissemination. They should also consider implementing interventions to develop health information–seeking skills in populations they serve and prepare information and materials that are easily accessible and understandable.