Health Literacy Competence of Health Education Students in Three Universities

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Pedagogy in Health Promotion


Introduction. Limited health literacy challenges health care and perpetuates health disparities. Health agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the World Health Organization, have recommended health literacy training for all health professionals, but little is known about the health literacy competence of health education professionals. The purpose of this study was to assess the health literacy knowledge and experience of advanced health education students. Method. We used a cross-sectional design to collect data from a sample of 250 juniors and seniors enrolled in health education programs who self-reported an intention to take the certified health education specialists examination. Descriptive and bivariate analyses were conducted. Findings. Results showed most students (84%) scored below 70% on the knowledge component of the test, even though majority of them (94%) reported health literacy training was included in their health educator preparation curriculum. A correlation analysis found health literacy knowledge was not associated with students’ reports of health literacy in their health education curriculum. Prior academic degree was negatively correlated with health literacy knowledge (ρ = −.211, p <.05), and there was a negative correlation between health literacy knowledge and health literacy experience (ρ = −.189, p <.05). Discussion. The study identified weaknesses and gaps in the health literacy knowledge and skills of students, most of who were in the final phase of their professional preparation. The findings have implications for research, practice, and credentialing.

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