AHRQ Health Literacy Tool Applied in Buenos Aires Teaching Hospital

Prevention and Care Management
April 2008

The University of Buenos Aires (UBA) has been using an AHRQ-funded health literacy tool in its teaching hospital, the Clinicas Hospital. The hospital is one of the largest in Argentina.

The AHRQ-funded tool is a health literacy test-the Short Assessment of Health Literacy for Spanish-speaking Adults (SAHLSA). Developed by Shoou-Yih Daniel Lee, PhD, and his colleagues, the SAHLSA is designed to be easily used in either a clinic or community setting to screen for limited health literacy among Spanish speakers. The screening tool is used at UBA to assess the prevalence of inadequate health literacy.

Jonatan Konfino, MD, a fourth-year resident in internal medicine says, "The routine use of the SAHLSA for screening may have a role in helping physicians become more aware of their patients' health literacy issues. By using the SAHLSA, the concept of 'health literacy' was introduced into our research and clinical environment. It is useful not only as an instrument to evaluate health literacy rapidly, but it is also an important research tool."

In the research project conducted at the Program of General Internal Medicine at the Clinicas Hospital, Konfino says, "By using the SAHLSA, the 229 patients quickly understood what they had to do, so the entire evaluation took about five minutes. It was easy to administer since the Spanish words that were chosen to create it are similar to those that we use in Argentina."

The research, "Health Literacy in a Latin American Population," hopes to assess the hospital's health literacy level and may be one of the first sources of data on health literacy in the country. There is currently little information about its prevalence in Latin America. An awareness of health literacy's impact on health status can then trigger the implementation of measures to reduce negative consequences.

The SAHLSA was based on the Rapid Estimate of Adult Literacy in Medicine (REALM), which is the most easily administered tool for assessing health literacy in English. The SAHLSA, however, incorporates a comprehension test using multiple-choice questions in addition to the word-recognition test in REALM.

The Clinicas Hospital is the largest medical facility of the University of Buenos Aires. It has 13 floors and about 400 beds and cares for many low-income individuals in Argentina, in addition to patients from Bolivia, Paraguay, and Uruguay. Physicians at the hospital represent most specialties. The Web site for the hospital is: http://www.hospitaldeclinicas.uba.ar/.

Impact Case Study Identifier: 
AHRQ Product(s): Research
Topics(s): Health Literacy, Disparities
Geographic Location: Argentina
Implementer: University of Buenos Aires
Date: 04/01/2008

Lee SY, Bender DE, Ruiz RE, Cho YI. Development of an easy-to-use Spanish health literacy test. August 2006. Health Services Research 41:1392-1412. (HS13233)

Page last reviewed October 2014