Health literacy among pregnant women in a lifestyle intervention trial: protocol for an explorative study on the role of health literacy in the perinatal health service setting

BMJ Open. 2021 Jul 1;11(7):e047377. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2020-047377.


Introduction: Pregnancy is a vulnerable period that affects long-term health of pregnant women and their unborn infants. Health literacy plays a crucial role in promoting healthy behaviour and thereby maintaining good health. This study explores the role of health literacy in the GeMuKi (acronym for 'Gemeinsam Gesund: Vorsorge plus für Mutter und Kind'-Strengthening health promotion: enhanced check-up visits for mother and child) Project. It will assess the ability of the GeMuKi lifestyle intervention to positively affect health literacy levels through active participation in preventive counselling. The study also explores associations between health literacy, health outcomes, health service use and effectiveness of the intervention.

Methods and analysis: The GeMuKi trial has a hybrid effectiveness-implementation design and is carried out in routine prenatal health service settings in Germany. Women (n=1860) are recruited by their gynaecologist during routine check-up visits before 12 weeks of gestation. Trained healthcare providers carry out counselling using motivational interviewing techniques to positively affect health literacy and lifestyle-related risk factors. Healthcare providers (gynaecologists and midwives) and women jointly agree on Specific, Measurable, Achievable Reasonable, Time-Bound goals. Women will be invited to fill in questionnaires at two time points (at recruitment and 37th-40th week of gestation) using an app. Health literacy is measured using the German version of the Health Literacy Survey-16 and the Brief Health Literacy Screener. Lifestyle is measured with questions on physical activity, nutrition, alcohol and drug use. Health outcomes of both mother and child, including gestational weight gain (GWG) will be documented at each routine visit. Health service use will be assessed using social health insurance claims data. Data analyses will be conducted using IBM SPSS Statistics, version 26.0. These include descriptive statistics, tests and regression models. A mediation model will be conducted to answer the question whether health behaviour mediates the association between health literacy and GWG.

Ethics and dissemination: The study was approved by the University Hospital of Cologne Research Ethics Committee (ID: 18-163) and the State Chamber of Physicians in Baden-Wuerttemberg (ID: B-F-2018-100). Study results will be disseminated through (poster) presentations at conferences, publications in peer-reviewed journals and press releases.

Trail registration: German Clinical Trials Register (DRKS00013173). Registered pre-results, 3rd of January 2019,

Keywords: education & training (see medical education & training); maternal medicine; primary care; public health.