Health literacy - is it useful in prevention of behavioral risk factors of NCDs?

Win Myint Oo, Win Khaing, Kyaw Swa Mya, Myo Moh Moh


Background: Health literacy means cognitive and social skills of a person that determine his or her ability to access, understand and use health information to maintain and promote health. People need to understand and use health information in order to choose a healthy lifestyle or to take advantage of preventive measures. The occurrence and consequences of NCDs are related to unhealthy life styles. Insight into the relationship between health literacy and modifiable behavioral risk factors of NCDs may support the prevention and control of these diseases.

Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted among 1367 adults. Multi-stage random sampling was used. Data entry and analysis was done using Stata 11.0 statistical package. Multiple logistic regression analysis was applied to assess the association between health literacy and behavioral risk factors.

Results: The proportion of participants who reported ever smoking, ever alcohol drinking and not-practicing daily-exercise was 19.8%, 16.2% and 85.2%, respectively. The prevalence of satisfactory level of health literacy was 31.5%. Health literacy was significantly related to behavioral risk factors even if age, sex, education status and monthly household’s expenditure were adjusted. By improving the health literacy status of adults up to satisfactory level, the prevalence of ever smoking, ever drinking and not-practicing daily exercise among them would be reduced by 34%, 32.1% and 38.9%, respectively.

Conclusions: Health literacy status of community should be assessed, monitored and improved. Health literacy may be an effective tool in prevention and control of NCDs because of its preventive effect on modifiable behavioral risk factors.



Adult, Health behavior, Health literacy, Risk factors

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