Review of health literacy and nutrition-related research in the Middle East

Ludmilla F. Wikkeling-Scott, R. V. Rikard


Arab Journal of Nutrition and Exercise                                                                                                       

ISSN:2518-6590           Published on 31st August, 2017


Aim: In the Middle East where nutrition-related diseases continue to be on the rise, health literacy related research may provide meaningful insight to patient-provider communication, nutrition and general health behavior, to improve health outcomes. Yet, little is known about health literacy in the region. We provide insight into the current research on health literacy and nutrition-related outcomes in the region.

Methods: English-language articles were identified using relevant keywords to search PubMed, Medline, Web of Science, and ProQuest Middle East & African. Inclusion criteria were quantitative and qualitative studies of any design focused on health literacy and nutrition-related health outcomes in the Middle East. We identified 22 unduplicated articles that met inclusion criteria.

Results: To date, only three studies employ a validated health literacy measure to examine the relationship between health literacy and nutrition-related disease outcomes (e.g., diabetes, overweight, and obesity). However, the research findings from the three studies cannot be generalized to larger populations within each country. Participants were patients who regularly visited health care facilities. The limited samples may bias conclusions regarding health literacy and the influence on nutrition-related disease outcomes.

Conclusions: Research is needed to understand health literacy and health literacy needs in Middle East countries, which are known for their racial and ethnic, and socio-economic diversity. Researchers can take advantage of the multitude of health literacy tools which have been validated and are readily available for use in diverse populations. Established health literacy measures provide greater benefit than developing brand new assessments when important information is urgently needed to address nutrition-related health outcomes.


Health literacy; Nutrition-related health outcomes; Middle East; commentary

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