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Review Explores Health Literacy in Patients With MS


Because health literacy can have different meanings for patients with different diseases, this review aimed to crystalize a definition in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) and emphasize its importance in care planning.

Health literacy in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) is a multidimensional concept, and health care providers should use this knowledge to plan optimal care for these patients, according to a review published in the Journal of Caring Sciences.

The concept of health literacy is defined by the CDC as “the degree to which individuals have the ability to find, understand, and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others,” and the review notes that the World Health Organization considers it to play a pivotal role in health inequalities.

Despite the increasing recognition of health literacy as an important factor in chronic disease outcomes, it is a complex and broad topic, and its meaning can vary across diseases, leading the author to conduct a literature review to solidify its definition for MS.

A systematic literature review identified 860 titles published in Persian or English from 1980 to 2019; after applying inclusion criteria, 19 items (15 original research articles, 3 books, and 1 dissertation) were analyzed in the study. The author used Rodgers’ evolutionary approach to extract the main attributes of health literacy in MS: health information evaluation, understanding the disease and its related issues, reading skills, and capacity to use knowledge.

In order to achieve health literacy, patients need the ability to read, write, and comprehend; access to effective information resources; and interaction with health care professionals and peers, especially those with MS.

“By assessing the presence of the antecedents of health literacy, health care personnel can enhance their ability to identify those patients at risk of misunderstanding and nonadherence,” the author noted.

The positive consequences of health literacy for patients with MS included improved self-care, health promotion (physical, psychological, social, and spiritual), medication adherence, and decreased use of health care services. These benefits can alleviate the burden of unnecessary care utilization on health systems, in addition to improving the patients’ health and productivity.

“The domains of health literacy as a set of capacities also implies that health literacy is somewhat knowledge based, and may be developed through educational intervention,” the author wrote.

The review found that patients with MS can boost their health literacy by accessing information from health care professionals, partnering with clinicians to enhance their self-management of the disease, and interacting with peers who have MS.

Awareness of the attributes and benefits of health literacy in MS can help promote application of this concept by health care providers when creating a care plan for patients with MS.

Limitations of the review included a lack of access to the full text of all articles and that only texts published in Persian or English were considered. Prior studies have indicated that health literacy is a dynamic concept, so future research could examine how the definition of health literacy in patients with MS changes over time.

“These findings not only add to the body of knowledge, but also serve as an important motivation for further theory development and research in this context,” the author concluded.


Dehghani A. Health literacy in multiple sclerosis patients: a concept analysis using the evolutionary method. J Caring Sci. 2021;10(1):49-56. doi:10.34172/jcs.2021.010

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