Assessment of Health Literacy and Self-reported Readiness for Transition to Adult Care among Adolescents and Young Adults with Spina Bifida

James T. Rague, Soojin Kim, Josephine A. Hirsch, Theresa Meyer, Ilina Rosoklija, Jill E. Larson, Vineeta T. Swaroop, Robin M. Bowman, Diana K. Bowen, Earl Y. Cheng, Elisa J. Gordon, Daniel I. Chu, Tamara Isakova, Elizabeth B. Yerkes, David I. Chu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Importance: Health literacy has been shown to play an important role in transitions of care in adult populations, with low health literacy associated with adverse health outcomes. The role of health literacy in the transition from pediatric to adult care has been less well studied. Among adolescents and young adults with spina bifida, high rates of unsuccessful transition have been shown, but how patient health literacy affects transition readiness remains unknown. Objective: To determine whether health literacy is associated with transition readiness in adolescents and young adults with spina bifida. Design, Setting, and Participants: This cross-sectional study involved collection of patient-reported questionnaires between June 2019 and March 2020 at a multidisciplinary spina bifida center at a single, free-standing children's hospital. Patient demographic and clinical characteristics were obtained from medical record review. Patients were aged 12 years or older with a diagnosis of spina bifida (myelomeningocele and nonmyelomeningocele) whose primary language was English or Spanish. Data analysis was performed from October 2020 to March 2021. Exposures: Health literacy as assessed by the Brief Health Literacy Screening Tool. Main Outcomes and Measures: The primary outcome was total Transition Readiness Assessment Questionnaire (TRAQ) score, normalized into units of SD. Nested, multivariable linear regression models assessed the association between health literacy and TRAQ scores. Results: The TRAQ and Brief Health Literacy Screening Tool were completed by 200 individuals (median [range] age, 17.0 [12.0-31.0] years; 104 female participants [52.0%]). Most of the patients were younger than 18 years (110 participants [55.0%]) and White (136 participants [68.0%]) and had myelomeningocele (125 participants [62.5%]). The mean (SD) TRAQ score was 3.3 (1.1). Sixty-six participants (33.0%) reported inadequate health literacy, 60 participants (30.0%) reported marginal health literacy, and 74 participants (37.0%) reported adequate health literacy. In univariable analysis, health literacy, age, type of spina bifida, level of education, self-administration vs completion of the questionnaires with assistance, ambulatory status, and urinary incontinence were associated with total TRAQ score. In all nested, sequentially adjusted, multivariable models, higher health literacy remained a significant, stepwise, independent variable associated with higher TRAQ score. In the fully adjusted model, having adequate compared with inadequate health literacy was associated with an increase in normalized TRAQ score of 0.49 SD (95% CI, 0.19-0.79). Conclusions and Relevance: Patient-reported transition readiness is associated with health literacy, even after adjustment for education level and other demographic and clinical factors. Developing and implementing health literacy-sensitive care programs during the transition process may improve patient transition readiness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2127034
JournalJAMA network open
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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