Testing the utility of the newest vital sign (NVS) health literacy assessment tool in older African-American patients

Patient Educ Couns. 2011 Dec;85(3):505-7. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2011.03.014. Epub 2011 Apr 21.


Objective: To evaluate utility of the newest vital sign (NVS) which can be completed in 3min compared to the short version test of functional literacy in adults (S-TOFHLA) that takes 7min for health literacy in the older African American patients.

Methods: We enrolled 62 older (age>65 years) African American patients and administered the NVS and the S-TOFHLA. A score of less than 4 for the NVS and less than 16 for the S-TOFHLA was indicative of limited health literacy.

Results: Mean age of our patients was 73.2+7.9 years with an average education level of twelfth grade. Using S-TOFHLA 51% of the subjects were deemed to be sufficiently literate, with a score of 23.0+8.6 compared to 56% on the NVS with a score of 3.0+1.9. The average time for completing the NVS was 11min in our patient population.

Conclusion: Based on our data, while health literacy level can be assessed with the NVS its practicality as a quick screening tool in the elderly population appears limited.

Practice implications: Knowing the level of patient's health literacy may help physicians deliver health information in the format that patients can understand.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Black or African American / statistics & numerical data
  • Cohort Studies
  • Educational Status*
  • Female
  • Geriatric Assessment
  • Health Literacy / methods*
  • Health Literacy / trends
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / statistics & numerical data*
  • Patients
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Primary Health Care / methods
  • Psychometrics / statistics & numerical data
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*
  • Time Factors
  • Vital Signs*