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The Case for Development of a New Test of Health Literacy

Patricia Agre
Ezra Stieglitz
Glen Milstein
ONF 2006, 33(2), 283-289 DOI: 10.1188/06.ONF.283-289

Purpose/Objectives: To review the need for reading assessments for patients with cancer, review existing reading assessment tools, and make a case for a new tool specific to patients with cancer.

Data Sources: Published articles, experiences, and discussions with published authors in the field of literacy.

Data Synthesis: Valid and reliable tools that assess word recognition and comprehension exist for general use in health care. Word-recognition tests do not always predict comprehension, and a commonly used comprehension test has sections assessing only very low, second year of high school, and graduate-level skills.

Conclusions: A new tool, developed specifically for patients with cancer, may better capture reading ability and comprehension. It is being evaluated for use in a clinical setting.

Implications for Nursing: If nurses know their patients' reading levels, they can plan more effectively for teaching self-care and discussing decision making. Outcomes related to health and satisfaction may improve if poor readers are given materials they can understand.

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