The role of health literacy and numeracy in contraceptive decision-making for urban Chicago women

Lynn M. Yee*, Melissa A. Simon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Low functional health literacy and numeracy have known associations with poor health outcomes, yet little work has investigated these markers of health disparity in a family planning population. We used an in-depth qualitative process and 2 literacy and numeracy assessment tools, the REALM-7 and the Schwartz numeracy scale, to assess the role of literacy and numeracy in contraceptive decision-making in an urban Chicago population. Brief surveys and semi-structured interviews were conducted with 30 postpartum women who had received Medicaid-funded care at an obstetrics clinic in an academic medical center. In-person one-on-one interviews were then reviewed for themes using an iterative process. Qualitative analysis techniques identifying emergent themes were applied to interview data. Literacy and numeracy were assessed using REALM-7 and a validated 3-question numeracy scale. In this cohort of African American (63 %) and Hispanic (37 %) women (median age 26), 73 % had unplanned pregnancies. Although health literacy rates on the REALM-7 were adequate, numeracy scores were low. Low literacy and numeracy scores were associated with interview reports of poor contraceptive knowledge and difficulty with contraceptive use. Low health literacy and numeracy may play an important role in contraception decision-making in this low-income, minority population of women. We recommend further study of literacy and numeracy in a family planning population. Comprehensive contraception education and communication around the contraceptive decision-making process should take place at literacy and numeracy levels appropriate to each individual.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)394-399
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Community Health
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2014


  • Contraceptive decision-making
  • Family planning
  • Health disparities
  • Health literacy
  • Health numeracy
  • Postpartum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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