Health literacy and weight

Health literacy issues surrounding weight management among African American women: a mixed methods study

James et al., JHND Early View


Individuals with limited health literacy (LHL) have poorer health outcomes and have difficulty understanding and complying with recommendations to maintain a healthy lifestyle. The present study examined the association between health literacy (HL) and sources of dieting information, the weight-loss methods used and the information needed to manage weight among African American women.


This mixed method study included seven focus groups and a survey of 413 African American women. Binary logistic regression analyses were performed to examine the association between HL category and sources of dieting information, weight-loss methods and information needed to lose weight. Thematic analysis was used to analyse focus group data.


Women with LHL were significantly more likely to have a higher body mass index (BMI) than those with AHL (< 0.05). Compared to respondents with LHL, those with adequate health literacy (AHL) are more likely to rely on information obtained from the Internet (< 0.001), although they are less likely to rely on information obtained from the television (< 0.05). They also are significantly more likely to participate in physical activity to lose weight (≤ 0.002). In addition, women with AHL were significantly less likely to want information on portion control (P = 0.002). Major qualitative themes were the importance of television and the Internet as major sources of health information, the use of healthy and unhealthy weight-loss methods, and being overwhelmed by the plethora of dieting information.


HL may affect BMI among AA women, where they access dieting information and the types of information needed to manage their weight.


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