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Measuring child and adolescent health literacy: a systematic review of literature

Michael J. Ormshaw (Research Centre for Health Promotion, Department of Health Sciences, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland)
Leena T. Paakkari (Research Centre for Health Promotion, Department of Health Sciences, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland)
Lasse K. Kannas (Research Centre for Health Promotion, Department of Health Sciences, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland)

Health Education

ISSN: 0965-4283

Article publication date: 23 August 2013

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Abstract

Purpose

A systematic review of literature was conducted to compile, analyse and describe the methodology and measurement of childhood/adolescent health literacy.

Design/methodology/approach

Six online databases (ERIC, PubMed, CINAHL, Biomed Central, Web of Science and Sports Discuss) were systematically searched to identify English language, peer‐reviewed articles, published between 1980 and April 2011, which reported on the measurement of health literacy in a population under the age of 18. The search identified 16 articles to be included in the final review, from which, data were systematically extracted in order to answer four review questions concerning several aspects of the method and effectiveness of the completed studies.

Findings

The majority (n=13) of the studies described the use of newly developed measurement tools and enquiry methods. The majority (n=14) assessed health literacy via task performance as opposed to examining self‐reported health literacy. Thirteen health topics and nine distinct components of health literacy were identified as being scrutinised by the 16 articles. Examination of the intended measurement aims of each study, in comparison with the actual measurement methods revealed that six studies fully succeeded in examining what they intended to measure. It is concluded that even though research in this field is escalating, clear definitions and measurement methods of childhood health literacy must be developed in order to effectively expand the field further and comprehensively assess childhood health literacy.

Originality/value

This review is to our knowledge the first to collate and examine studies concentrating solely on the measurement of health literacy in a child and/or adolescent population.

Keywords

Citation

Ormshaw, M.J., Paakkari, L.T. and Kannas, L.K. (2013), "Measuring child and adolescent health literacy: a systematic review of literature", Health Education, Vol. 113 No. 5, pp. 433-455. https://doi.org/10.1108/HE-07-2012-0039

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited