Using health literacy and learning style preferences to optimize the delivery of health information

J Health Commun. 2012;17 Suppl 3:122-40. doi: 10.1080/10810730.2012.712610.


Limited patient understanding of hypertension contributes to poor health outcomes. In 2 sequential randomized studies, the authors determined the impact of administering information tailored to health literacy level alone or in combination with preferred learning style on patients' understanding of hypertension. Patients with high blood pressure were recruited in an academic emergency department. In Experiment 1 (N = 85), the control group received only the routine discharge instructions; the intervention group received discharge instructions combined with information consistent with their health literacy level as determined by the Short Test of Functional Health Literacy. In Experiment 2 (N = 87), the information provided to the intervention group was tailored to both health literacy and learning style, as indicated by the VARK™ Questionnaire. To measure learning, the authors compared scores on a hypertension assessment administered during the emergency department visit and 2 weeks after discharge. Participants who received materials tailored to both health literacy level and learning style preference showed greater gains in knowledge than did those receiving information customized for health literacy level only. This study demonstrates that personalizing health information to learning style preferences and literacy level improves patient understanding of hypertension.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Health Literacy*
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / therapy*
  • Learning*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Education as Topic / methods*
  • Patient Preference / psychology*