Background Health literacy has been associated with a variety of health outcomes and behaviours in adults and children. Relatively little is known about health literacy of pregnant and parenting teens. The current study evaluated the acceptability and efficacy of simple, written, educational materials.
Methods A convenience sample (n = 129) of English-speaking adolescent mothers (M = 16.98 years; SD = 1.04) was recruited from a public school system. A simple pamphlet was developed for each of 4 common topics (breastfeeding, postpartum depression, infant care, and bonding). Participants completed a pretest on knowledge, read a simple educational pamphlet, and completed an immediate posttest. Participants also completed the Parental Health Literacy Activities Test (PHLAT) and a measure of acceptability. A two-week posttest followed. The Cochran-Armitage test of trends and repeated measures ANOVA were used.
Results The teens agreed (n = 96; 82.1%) or partially agreed (n = 14; 12%) that the pamphlets were easy to read. Knowledge improved on 6 of the 10 questions. Correct responses to the PHLAT items ranged from 27.6%–97.6% (M = 61.79% ±16.7%). The intervention was associated with an increase in PPD (67.4% vs. 76.4% vs. 84.3%, p = 0.031), baby bonding (74.8% vs. 87.8% vs. 86.2%, p = 0.013) and breastfeeding (58.5% vs. 75.6% vs. 79.7%, p = 0.005) knowledge over time, but had no effect on infant care knowledge over time (94.3% vs. 97.6% vs. 95.9%, p = 0.434).
Conclusions/discussion Simple, written pamphlets, following US national health literacy guidelines, improved knowledge over time and were acceptable to adolescent mothers. Health literacy skills were limited and appear to be associated with initial knowledge.