News Details

Taking care: Study links health literacy and self-care in heart failure patients

February 12, 2010

Heart failure patients with higher health literacy are more likely to engage in self-care behaviors, according to a study by Kim Plake, an associate professor of pharmacy practice, and Karen Yehle, an assistant professor of nursing.

An estimated 5.8 million Americans suffer from heart failure. Managing this chronic illness requires that patients monitor certain health indicators, such as weight, for changes and take medications regularly. Health literacy, defined as “the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions,” plays a critical factor in this. Poor health literacy can affect a patient’s ability to adhere to their treatment regimen and manage their condition, leading to poorer health outcomes.

This study focuses on health literacy and self-care in heart failure patients across multiple care settings.


Participants were recruited from two Indiana hospital heart failure clinics. Pearson correlations were performed between the S-TOFHLA score and the SCHFI subscale scores, and one-way ANOVA was performed between demographic variables that contained at least three groups and the SCHFI subscale score.


Higher health literacy was positively correlated with both self-care and self-management. Age, education, and amount of exercise in the past week, were all positively correlated with health literacy. Race, gender, income, and maritial status were among the demographic variables that did not affect health literacy.

Future Work

The study provides preliminary data for future work aimed at improving patient self-care through tailored health literacy-specific education. A second phase assessing the impact of existing patient education methods in self-care based on health literacy is underway with funding from the Kinley Foundation.

Excerpted from Plake, K. S. and Karen Yehle. Health Literacy, Medication Burden and Self Care Behaviors in Patients with Heart Failure Across Multiple Care Settings. Project Proposal and Final Report.

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