Measuring health literacy among immigrants with a phonetic primary language: A case of korean american women

Hae Ra Han, Jiyun Kim, Miyong To Kim, Kim B. Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


While the need for understanding the issue of health literacy among ethnic minority groups with limited English skills is rapidly increasing in the US, it is difficult to find valid and useful health literacy tools for certain linguistic minorities. This study was designed to validate the Korean translation of Rapid Estimate of Adult Literacy in Medicine (REALM) and Test of Functional Health Literacy in Adults-Short form (S-TOFHLA). Korean REALM and S-TOFHLA were administered to 98 Korean American women, together with REALM-English. Participants were first-generation immigrants who were educated in Korea. Both Korean REALM and S-TOFHLA resulted in a negatively-skewed distribution. REALM-English yielded well-distributed groups with significant correlations with Korean REALM and S-TOFHLA (Spearman's rho = 0.30, P = 0.003 and 0.22, P = 0.03, respectively). Educational level was significantly correlated with REALM-English and Korean S-TOFHLA (Spearman's rho = 0.39, P = 0.000 and 0.25, P = 0.014), but not with REALM-Korean. The translation of REALM and S-TOFHLA into the Korean language did not lead to a valid assessment of health literacy. A more systematic approach is needed to assess health literacy in immigrants with limited English skills, particularly those with a phonetic primary language. Meanwhile, REALM-English could be used as a crude health literacy test for individuals with some English skills.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)253-259
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Immigrant and Minority Health
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2011


  • Health literacy
  • Korean
  • Women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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