Adolescent Health Literacy: The Importance of Credible Sources for Online Health Information


  • The authors would like to thank the administration, faculty, and staff of the South Texas Independent School District (STISD) for their help and support during this study. Special thanks go to Ann Vickman and Sara Reibman for sharing information and insights from the ¡VIVA! Peer Tutor Program. This research was funded by a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Grant H75DP001812). The contents of this presentation are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the South Texas Border Health Disparities Center at The University of Texas-Pan American.

Suad F. Ghaddar, Associate Director, (, South Texas Border Health Disparities Center, The University of Texas-Pan American, 2925 Pine Valley Drive, Harlingen, TX 78550.


BACKGROUND: Little research has examined adolescent health literacy and its relationship with online health information sources. The purpose of this study is to explore health literacy among a predominantly Hispanic adolescent population and to investigate whether exposure to a credible source of online health information, MedlinePlus®, is associated with higher levels of health literacy.

METHODS: An online survey was administered to a cross-sectional random sample of high school students in South Texas. Self-reported sociodemographic characteristics and data on health-information-seeking behavior and exposure to MedlinePlus® were collected. Health literacy was assessed by eHEALS and the Newest Vital Sign (NVS). Linear and binary logistic regressions were completed.

RESULTS: Of the 261 students who completed the survey, 56% had heard of MedlinePlus®, 52% had adequate levels of health literacy as measured by NVS, and the mean eHEALS score was 30.6 (possible range 8-40). Health literacy was positively associated with self-efficacy and seeking health information online. Exposure to MedlinePlus® was associated with higher eHealth literacy scores (p < .001) and increased the likelihood of having adequate health literacy (odds ratio: 2.1; 95% CI: 1.1, 4.1).

CONCLUSION: Exposure to a credible source of online health information is associated with higher levels of health literacy. The incorporation of a credible online health information resource into school health education curricula is a promising approach for promoting health literacy.