Reading skills and family planning knowledge and practices in a low-income managed-care population

Obstet Gynecol. 1999 Feb;93(2):239-44. doi: 10.1016/s0029-7844(98)00431-1.


Objective: To examine the relationship between reading ability and family planning knowledge and practices among Medicaid managed care enrollees.

Methods: A total of 406 women age 19-45 years enrolled in TennCare and members of Prudential HealthCare Community Plan in Memphis, Tennessee were interviewed to determine their methods of contraception, desire for additional information about contraceptives, and knowledge about the time in menstrual cycle they are at highest risk for pregnancy. Patient reading ability was assessed by an abbreviated version of the Test of Functional Health Literacy of Adults. The independent associations between reading ability, desire for additional contraceptive information, and knowledge about the highest risk time for pregnancy were assessed with logistic regression.

Results: Almost 10% of the respondents had low reading skills. Women who had used an intrauterine device, douching, rhythm, or levonorgestrel implants as methods of birth control had higher rates of low reading skills than women who used other methods of birth control. Compared with women with good reading skills, women with low reading skills were 2.2 times (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.1, 4.4) more likely to want to know more about birth control methods and 4.4 times (95% CI 2.2, 9.0) more likely to have incorrect knowledge about when they were most likely to get pregnant. These relationships were significant even after controlling for age, race, and marital status.

Conclusion: Health providers and organizations that serve historically underserved populations must understand that some individuals have a low level of reading ability that limits family planning education.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Contraception*
  • Educational Status*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Managed Care Programs*
  • Middle Aged
  • Poverty*
  • Pregnancy
  • Reading*
  • Socioeconomic Factors