Low Health Literacy Exists in the Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) Population and Is Disproportionately Prevalent in Older African Americans

Crohns Colitis 360. 2020 Oct;2(4):otaa076. doi: 10.1093/crocol/otaa076. Epub 2020 Oct 12.


Background: Low health literacy is common in general populations, but its prevalence in the inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) population is unclear. The objective of this study was to assess the prevalence of low health literacy in a diverse IBD population and to identify risk factors for low health literacy.

Methods: Adult patients with IBD at a single institution from November 2017 to May 2018 were assessed for health literacy using the Newest Vital Sign (NVS). Demographic and socioeconomic data were also collected. Primary outcome was the prevalence of low health literacy. Secondary outcomes were length-of-stay (LOS) and 30-day readmissions after surgical encounters. Bivariate comparisons and multivariable regression were used for analyses.

Results: Of 175 IBD patients, 59% were women, 23% were African Americans, 91% had Crohn disease, and mean age was 46 years (SD = 16.7). The overall prevalence of low health literacy was 24%. Compared to white IBD patients, African Americans had significantly higher prevalence of low health literacy (47.5% vs 17.0%, P < 0.05). On multivariable analysis, low health literacy was associated with older age and African American race (P < 0.05). Of 83 IBD patients undergoing abdominal surgery, mean postoperative LOS was 5.5 days and readmission rate was 28.9%. There was no significant difference between LOS and readmissions rates by health literacy levels.

Conclusions: Low health literacy is present in IBD populations and more common among older African Americans. Opportunities exist for providing more health literacy-sensitive care in IBD to address disparities and to benefit those with low health literacy.

Keywords: IBD; health literacy; outcomes; social determinants of health; surgery.