COVID-19 Is Connected with Lower Health Literacy in Rural Areas

Stud Health Technol Inform. 2021 May 27;281:804-808. doi: 10.3233/SHTI210286.


The relationship between social determinants of health (SDoH) and health outcomes is established and extends to a higher risk of contracting COVID-19. Given the factors included in SDoH, such as education level, race, rurality, and socioeconomic status are interconnected, it is unclear how individual SDoH factors may uniquely impact risk. Lower socioeconomic status often occurs in concert with lower educational attainment, for example. Because literacy provides access to information needed to avoid infection and content can be made more accessible, it is essential to determine to what extent health literacy contributes to successful containment of a pandemic. By incorporating this information into clinical data, we have isolated literacy and geographic location as SDoH factors uniquely related to the risk of COVID-19 infection. For patients with comorbidities linked to higher illness severity, residents of rural areas associated with lower health literacy at the zip code level had a greater likelihood of positive COVID-19 results unrelated to their economic status.

Keywords: Data Integration; Data Quality; Health Literacy; Pandemic; Social Determinants of Health.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Health Literacy*
  • Humans
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Social Determinants of Health
  • Socioeconomic Factors