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Public Health


Talmage Holmes


According to the CDC, each year approximately 0.06 % of the world's population dies in infancy. The March of Dimes indicated that the leading causes of infant mortality include birth defects, preterm birth, low birth weight, sudden infant death syndrome, maternal complications of pregnancy, and respiratory distress syndrome, most of which are considered preventable with access to adequate prenatal care by mothers. The goal of this study was to examine the association between maternal health literacy levels and preterm birth. This research was based on the theoretical framework of the Interaction Model of Client Health Behavior. The hypothesis for this study was that reproductive-age women with low levels of maternal health literacy would be more likely to experience a preterm birth. In this case control study, cases were defined as women delivering before 37 weeks gestation. The REALM health literacy assessment tool was used in a sample of 169 women meeting the criteria; 56 fit the case criteria and 113 fit the control criteria. The data were analyzed in SPSS using logistic regression, with preterm birth as the dependent variable, and health literacy levels as the independent variable. When comparing mothers who delivered preterm to mothers that delivered term, there was no significance difference (p = 0.112) with respect to maternal health literacy. There was no association between low maternal health literacy levels, as assessed by the REALM instrument, and preterm birth for English-speaking women between the ages of 18 and 35 within the metropolitan Atlanta area. This study reinforces the need to reengage health practitioners to achieve a modest understanding of the principals of health literacy and the health literacy levels of their patients to assist in maternal health improvements. A focus on the development and implementation of educational competencies for clinicians on maternal health literacy would attribute to a positive social change.