Relationship between Health Literacy and Kidney Function

Radhika Devraj*, Matthew Borrego, A. Mary Vilay, Elisa J. Gordon, Junvie Pailden, Bruce Horowitz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Aim Low health literacy (HL) may contribute to poor self-management of chronic kidney disease (CKD) and poor kidney function. This study aimed to assess the relationship between HL and estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR). Methods A cross-sectional observational study was conducted among consecutive eligible adult patients with CKD stages 1-4 attending an outpatient nephrology clinic. HL was assessed using Newest Vital Sign (NVS). eGFR was estimated using the Modification of Diet in Renal Disease equation. CKD self-management behaviour knowledge was assessed using a study instrument (CKD self-management knowledge (SMKT)). Results One hundred fifty patients participated in the study (83% participation rate). The prevalence of high likelihood of limited HL was 32.7%. Participants' eGFRs ranged from 17 to 152 mL/min / 1.73 m2, with over 80% of the eGFRs below 60 mL/min / 1.73 m2. HL was associated with eGFR after controlling for all demographics except age, race and gender (which are included in eGFR equation) (P = 0.05). Every unit increase in NVS score was associated with a 1.9% increase (95% confidence interval = 0 to 3.86%) in eGFR (model R square = 0.23, P = 0.002), which remained significant after controlling for CKD-SMKT (P = 0.05; model R square = 0.28, P < 0.001). The relationship was non-significant after controlling for age, although it remained significant after controlling for other demographics including gender and race. Conclusions There is a small but significant association between HL and eGFR. Providers should use HL-tailored communication strategies in CKD patients. Larger multicentre studies are needed to substantiate this relationship. Summary at a Glance This study found a significant relationship between health literacy and renal function in patients with chronic kidney disease stages 1 through 4.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)360-367
Number of pages8
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2015


  • CKD
  • clinical outcome
  • eGFR
  • health literacy
  • kidney function

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nephrology

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