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New Tool Can Quickly Assess Patients' Health Literacy

English-Spanish test could be preferable to slower, English-only tools

FRIDAY, Dec. 9 (HealthDay News) -- A new health literacy test lets health care professionals quickly screen patients in English or Spanish, according to a study in the November/December issue of the Annals of Family Medicine.

In 2004, the American Medical Association and other groups noted that as many as half of U.S. adults lack the health literacy skills they need, the study points out. Yet current literacy instruments can be too long for routine use and available only in English.

Barry D. Weiss, M.D., of the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson, and colleagues gave the Test of Functional Health Literacy in Adults, as well as other testing instruments, to English- and Spanish-speaking primary care patients.

They found that the Newest Vital Sign screening tool holds promise in the busy primary care setting. The brief, six-question survey takes three minutes to complete and is reliable in both languages, the researchers report. They added that patients with fewer than four correct answers could have limited health literacy.

The Newest Vital Sign tool "is suitable for use as a quick screening test for limited literacy in primary health care settings," the authors conclude.

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