Do adolescents understand the items of the European Health Literacy Survey Questionnaire (HLS-EU-Q47) – German version? Findings from cognitive interviews of the project “Measurement of Health Literacy Among Adolescents” (MOHLAA) in Germany
In Germany, there are no measurement tools to assess the general health literacy of adolescents. The aim of the study “Measurement of Health Literacy Among Adolescents” (MOHLAA) is to develop such a tool for use among adolescents aged 14–17. The German version of the European Health Literacy Survey Questionnaire (HLS-EU-Q47-GER) served as a blueprint for the development of the tool. The present study examined the extent to which the HLS-EU-Q47-GER can be applied to the measurement of general health literacy in adolescents.
The applicability of the HLS-EU-Q47-GER for adolescents was tested qualitatively using cognitive interviewing (CI). Purposive sampling was used to achieve an equal distribution of participants regarding age groups, educational backgrounds and gender. CI was standardized on the basis of an interview guide. Verbal probing and the retrospective think-aloud technique were applied. The interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed and analyzed using the criteria of theory-based analysis, which were derived from the model of cognitive processes. The analysis focused on identifying terms and questions that were difficult to understand and on scrutinizing the extent to which the content of the items is appropriate for assessing adolescents’ health literacy.
Adolescent respondents were unfamiliar with some terms of the HLS-EU-Q47-GER or provided heterogeneous interpretations of the terms. They had limited or no experience regarding some health-related tasks in health care and disease prevention that are addressed by HLS-EU-Q-items. A few items seemed to be too “difficult” to answer due to a high abstraction level or because they lacked any reference to the everyday lives of youth. Despite comprehension problems with some of the HLS-EU items, the respondents assessed the covered health-related tasks as “very easy” or “fairly easy”. CI stressed the importance of interpersonal agents, especially parents, in helping adolescents understand and judge the reliability of health information.
The results of CI indicated that the applicability of the HLS-EU-Q47-GER to the measurement of general health literacy among adolescents aged 14–17 is limited. In order to prevent biased data, some items of the questionnaire should be adjusted to adolescents’ state of development and experiences with health care and disease prevention.
- Olga Maria Domanska
- Christiane Firnges,
- Torsten Michael Bollweg,
- Kristine Sørensen,
- Christine Holmberg and
- Susanne Jordan