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Original Article

SJEMed. 2022; 3(1): 088-095

Health literacy and education: a cross-sectional study using the Newest Vital Sign among patients in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Ludmilla F. Wikkeling-Scott, Monique McCray, Rahma Y. Ajja, Alaa Soliman.


Background: Few studies have examined health literacy in the United Arab Emirates and a limited number of tools for use in Arabic speaking populations exist. The aim of this study was to describe health literacy level and related factors such as education and exposure to nutrition education, among patients visiting the emergency room.
Methods: Data were collected from 590 patients in 2018 at the emergency department in a multinational setting. Univariate and logistic regression analyses were used to determine the association between health literacy, education and other demographic variables.
Results: The mean age of patients was 32.9 (±10.7), of whom 44.3% had less than a college education. The average Newest Vital Sign score was 2.69 (±2.33) out of 6. Over a third of the patients (38.5%) had a high likelihood of limited health literacy, 17.2% had the possibility of limited health literacy and 44.3% had adequate health literacy. Multivariable logistic regression analysis indicated that having less than a college level education was a significant predictor for inadequate health literacy among participating patients [odds ratio (OR) = 2.23; 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.52, 3.30, p < 0.001]. This was also true for those who never attended a nutrition education session (OR = 1.86; 95% CI: 1.24, 2.79, p < 0.001).
Conclusion: The current study results lend support to expanding health literacy research in this multinational population where the majority have a secondary education. How patients obtain information, interact with health care providers and become empowered to participate in their care must be further explored to improve health literacy outcomes.

Key words: education, health literacy, Newest Vital Sign, United Arab Emirates

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