Prevalence of Limited Health Literacy in the Philippines

Health literacy is necessary for people to effectively manage their health. The role of health literacy in population health has gained recognition in recent years that the UN Economic and Social Council called on member states for the development of appropriate action plans to promote health literacy. In 2015, health literacy toolkits were published including the World Health Organization’s Health Literacy Toolkit which provides guidance on empowering communities and strengthening health systems; and the second edition of the Health Literacy Universal Precautions Toolkit which contains guidelines to reduce the complexity of health care and increase patient understanding of health information. Measuring population level health literacy is crucial in identifying the health literacy needs of populations and in designing appropriate interventions to address these needs. Thus, the first National Health Literacy Survey to describe population health literacy in the Philippines was conducted. Specifically, the study determined the health literacy level of Filipinos, the particular dimension and domain of health literacy where Filipinos have limited health literacy. Health literacy level across categories of selected socio-demographic and health-related variables were also determined. A total of 2303 randomly selected 15-70 year old Filipinos were interviewed face-to-face using the adapted version of the HLS-EU-Asia questionnaire. Multi-stage random sampling was employed. The survey was administered using Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing method. Results showed that majority of Filipinos (51.54%) have limited basic health literacy with information access as the dimension with the highest proportion of limited health literacy (45.94%) followed by appraising (43.81%) and understanding (35.78%). Among the three health domains, health care had the highest prevalence (50.93%) of limited heath literacy. Disease prevention (41.95%) and health promotion (40.34%) ranked second and third, respectively. There were observed variations in the prevalence of limited health literacy across certain socio-demographic and health-related characteristics. These variations are useful for targeted interventions.