Association of parental health literacy with oral health of Navajo Nation preschoolers

Health Educ Res. 2016 Feb;31(1):70-81. doi: 10.1093/her/cyv055. Epub 2015 Nov 26.


Health literacy is 'the capacity to obtain, process and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions'. Although numerous studies show a link between health literacy and clinical outcomes, little research has examined the association of health literacy with oral health. No large-scale studies have assessed these relationships among American Indians, a population at risk for limited health literacy and oral health problems. This analysis was conducted as part of a clinical trial aimed at reducing dental decay among preschoolers in the Navajo Nation Head Start program. Using baseline data for 1016 parent-child dyads, we examined the association of parental health literacy with parents' oral health knowledge, attitudes, and behavior, as well as indicators of parental and pediatric oral health. More limited health literacy was associated with lower levels of oral health knowledge, more negative oral health attitudes, and lower levels of adherence to recommended oral health behavior. Parents with more limited health literacy also had significantly worse oral health status (OHS) and reported their children to have significantly worse oral health-related quality of life. These results highlight the importance of oral health promotion interventions that are sensitive to the needs of participants with limited health literacy.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child Health*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Literacy*
  • Humans
  • Indians, North American*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oral Health / education*
  • Parents / education*
  • Young Adult