Health literacy and cancer prevention: Two new instruments to assess comprehension

UMMS Affiliation

Meyers Primary Care Institute; Department of Medicine

Publication Date


Document Type



Health Literacy; Neoplasms; Early Detection of Cancer; Comprehension; Patient Education as Topic


Health Services Research | Neoplasms | Primary Care | Public Health Education and Promotion


OBJECTIVES: Ability to understand spoken health information is an important facet of health literacy, but to date, no instrument has been available to quantify patients' ability in this area. We sought to develop a test to assess comprehension of spoken health messages related to cancer prevention and screening to fill this gap, and a complementary test of comprehension of written health messages.

METHODS: We used the Sentence Verification Technique to write items based on realistic health messages about cancer prevention and screening, including media messages, clinical encounters and clinical print materials. Items were reviewed, revised, and pre-tested. Adults aged 40-70 participated in a pilot administration in Georgia, Hawaii, and Massachusetts.

RESULTS: The Cancer Message Literacy Test-Listening is self-administered via touchscreen laptop computer. No reading is required. It takes approximately 1 hour. The Cancer Message Literacy Test-Reading is self-administered on paper. It takes approximately 10min.

CONCLUSIONS: These two new tests will allow researchers to assess comprehension of spoken health messages, to examine the relationship between listening and reading literacy, and to explore the impact of each form of literacy on health-related outcomes.

PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: Researchers and clinicians now have a means of measuring comprehension of spoken health information.

DOI of Published Version



Patient Educ Couns. 2012 Jan 11. [Epub ahead of print] DOI 10.1016/j.pec.2011.12.009

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Patient education and counseling

Related Resources

Link to article in PubMed

PubMed ID