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Use of Theory in Low-Literacy Intervention Research From 1980 to 2009

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Objective: To examine whether theories and/or models are used in interventions geared towards improving health-related outcomes for individuals with limited literacy skills. Methods: Intervention studies (n=52) published between 1980 and 2009 that met inclusion criteria were reviewed to assess the topic addressed, type of theory and/or model used, and the extent of theory use. Results: Twenty-one (40.4%) interventions were based on a theory or model. Most of those 21 interventions were either “informed by” (n=15, 71.4%) or “applied” (n=4, 19.1%) theory whereas 2 (9.5%) “tested” theory. Conclusions: Most low-literacy intervention research is not based on any educational, behavioral, or social science theory or model.


Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Associate Professor, The Ohio State University, Department of Family Medicine, Columbus, OH, USA. 2: Assistant Professor, University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine, Preston Medical Library, Knoxville, TN, USA 3: Professor, University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine, Preston Medical Library, Knoxville, TN, USA 4: Doctoral Student, University of Tennessee College of Social Work, Knoxville, TN, USA 5: Associate Professor, Oregon Health & Science University, Department of Family Medicine, Portland, OR, USA 6: Professor, University of Arizona, Department of Family and Community Medicine, Tucson, AZ, USA

Publication date: March 1, 2012

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  • The American Journal of Health Behavior seeks to improve the quality of life through multidisciplinary health efforts in fostering a better understanding of the multidimensional nature of both individuals and social systems as they relate to health behaviors.

    The Journal aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the impact of personal attributes, personality characteristics, behavior patterns, social structure, and processes on health maintenance, health restoration, and health improvement; to disseminate knowledge of holistic, multidisciplinary approaches to designing and implementing effective health programs; and to showcase health behavior analysis skills that have been proven to affect health improvement and recovery.

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