HLRP: Health Literacy Research and Practice

Massey, Philip M., Meen Chul Kim, Prudence W. Dalrymple, Michelle L. Rogers, Kisha H. Hawthorne, and Jennifer A. Manganello*



Background: With an increase in the number of disciplines contributing to health literacy scholarship, we sought to explore the nature of interdisciplinary research in the field. Objective: This study sought to describe disciplines that contribute to health literacy research and to quantify how disciplines draw from and contribute to an interdisciplinary evidence base, as measured by citation networks. Methods: We conducted a literature search for health literacy articles published between 1991 and 2015 in four bibliographic databases, producing 6,229 unique bibliographic records. We employed a scientometric tool (CiteSpace [Version 4.4.R1]) to quantify patterns in published health literacy research, including a visual path from cited discipline domains to citing discipline domains. Key Results: The number of health literacy publications increased each year between 1991 and 2015. Two spikes, in 2008 and 2013, correspond to the introduction of additional subject categories, including information science and communication. Two journals have been cited more than 2,000 times—the Journal of General Internal Medicine (n = 2,432) and Patient Education and Counseling (n = 2,252). The most recently cited journal added to the top 10 list of cited journals is the Journal of Health Communication (n = 989). Three main citation paths exist in the health literacy data set. Articles from the domain “medicine, medical, clinical” heavily cite from one domain (health, nursing, medicine), whereas articles from the domain “psychology, education, health” cite from two separate domains (health, nursing, medicine and psychology, education, social). Conclusions: Recent spikes in the number of published health literacy articles have been spurred by a greater diversity of disciplines contributing to the evidence base. However, despite the diversity of disciplines, citation paths indicate the presence of a few, self-contained disciplines contributing to most of the literature, suggesting a lack of interdisciplinary research. To address complex and evolving challenges in the health literacy field, interdisciplinary team science, that is, integrating science from across multiple disciplines, should continue to grow.

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* Denotes CSDA Associates, Affiliates, and Staff