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Health literacy and health seeking behavior among older men in a middle-income nation

Authors Bourne P, Morris C, Charles CA, Eldemire-Shearer D, Kerr-Campbell MD, Crawford TV

Published 26 May 2010 Volume 2010:1 Pages 39—49


Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 2

Paul A Bourne1, Chloe Morris1, Christopher AD Charles2, Denise Eldemire-Shearer1, Maureen D Kerr-Campbell3, Tazhmoye V Crawford4

1Department of Community Health and Psychiatry, 4Basic Medical Sciences, Faculty of Medical Sciences, The University of the West Indies, Mona, Kingston, Jamaica; 2Systems Development Unit, Main Library, Faculty of Humanities and Education, The University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica; 3King Graduate School, Monroe College, 2375 Jerome Avenue, Bronx, New York 10468 and Center for Victim Support, Harlem Hospital Center, New York, USA

Abstract: Health literacy is a measure of the patient’s ability to read, comprehend and act on medical instructions. This research article examines health literacy and health-seeking behaviors among elderly men in Jamaica, in order to inform health policy. This is a descriptive cross-sectional study. A 133-item questionnaire was administered to a random sample of 2,000 men, 55 years and older, in St Catherine, Jamaica. In this study, 56.9% of urban and 44.5% of rural residents were health literate. Only 34.0% of participants purchased medications prescribed by the medical doctor and 19.8% were currently smoking. Despite the reported good self-related health status (74.4%) and high cognitive functionality (94.1%) of the older men, only 7.9% sought medical care outside of experiencing illnesses. Thirty-seven percent of rural participants sought medical care when they were ill compared with 31.9% of their urban counterparts. Thirty-four percent of the participants took the medication as prescribed by the medical doctor; 43% self-reported being diagnosed with cancers such as prostate and colorectal in the last 6 months, 9.6% with hypertension, 5.3% with heart disease, 5.3% with benign prostatic hyperplasia, 5.3% with diabetes mellitus, and 3.8% with kidney/bladder problems. Approximately 14% and 24% of the participants indicated that they were unaware of the signs and symptoms of hypertension and diabetes mellitus, respectively. The elderly men displayed low health literacy and poor health-seeking behavior. These findings can be used to guide the formulation of health policies and intervention programs for elderly men in Jamaica.

Keywords: health literacy, health status, lifestyle practices, older men, health-seeking behavior

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