Health literacy in a university community in Northwest Mexico in 2016

Alfabetización en salud de una comunidad universitaria del noroeste de México en el año 2016
Carlos Javier Mávita-Corral a

a Servicio Médico Voluntario del Programa Universidad Saludable, Instituto Tecnológico de Sonora, Ciudad Obregón, Sonora, México

Recibido el 24 de noviembre de 2016; aceptado el 21 de marzo de 2017

Palabras Clave

Alfabetización en salud; Universidades; Educación; Promoción de la salud


Health literacy; Universities; Education; Health promotion


Introduction: Since its inception in 1974, the term health literacy has assumed increasing importance. It refers to the ability to access, understand and evaluate health information in order to make decisions. People with inadequate health literacy are a vulnerable group. There is limited research on the subject in educational communities.

Objective: To measure and analyse health literacy level of a university community in Northwestern Mexico.

Method: Analytical cross-sectional study performed using stratified probability sampling of 477 individuals that included students, academic and administrative staff and other employees. More than two-thirds (68.34%) were women, and the mean age was 29.6 years. With prior verbal authorisation, they completed the European Health Literacy Survey Questionnaire, Spanish version, produced by the HLS-EU Consortium, coordinated by the University of Maastricht, and funded by the European Commission. Health history were also collected, analysing its relationship to the level of health literacy using the Pearson 2 and Student t test.

Results: Only 8.17% showed an index of inadequate health literacy; 43.39%, problematic; 39.83%, sufficient; and 8.59%, excellent. The variables more significantly associated (p < .01) with a poor outcome were: to be an administrator, chronic diseases, frequent user of emergency services, constantly attending medical clinics, and physical inactivity.

Conclusions: Half (51.56%, 95% CI 47.09-56.03) of this university community has inadequate health education. Due to its social impact, it is necessary to implement this issue as a strategic axis in higher educational institutions.