Systematic review of health literacy in Cochrane database studies on paediatric asthma educational interventions: searching beyond rigorous design

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The purpose of this study was to evaluate if paediatric asthma educational intervention studies included in the Cochrane Collaboration database incorporated concepts of health literacy.


Inclusion criteria were established to identify review categories in the Cochrane Collaboration database specific to paediatric asthma educational interventions. Articles that met the inclusion criteria were selected from the Cochrane Collaboration database in 2010. The health literacy definition from Healthy People 2010 was used to develop a 4-point a priori rating scale to determine the extent a study reported aspects of health literacy in the development of an educational intervention for parents and/or children.


Five Cochrane review categories met the inclusion criteria; 75 studies were rated for health literacy content regarding educational interventions with families and children living with asthma. A priori criteria were used for the rating process. While 52 (69%) studies had no information pertaining to health literacy, 23 (31%) reported an aspect of health literacy. Although all studies maintained the rigorous standards of randomized clinical trials, a model of health literacy was not reported regarding the design and implementation of interventions.


While a more comprehensive health literacy model for the development of educational interventions with families and children may have been available after the reviewed studies were conducted, general literacy levels still could have been addressed. The findings indicate a need to incorporate health literacy in the design of client-centred educational interventions and in the selection criteria of relevant Cochrane reviews. Inclusion assures that health literacy is as important as randomization and statistical analyses in the research design of educational interventions and may even assure participation of people with literacy challenges.

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