Limited health literacy is known to impact on medication adherence, hospital readmission and potentially poorer health outcomes. The literature on the health literacy of those with musculoskeletal conditions suggests greater functional limitations and increased pain levels. There are a number of measures of health literacy. One that specifically relates to musculoskeletal complaints is the Literacy in Musculoskeletal Problems (LiMP) questionnaire. The LiMP contains 9 multiple choice items that cover anatomy, musculoskeletal conditions and the diagnosis of musculoskeletal complaints. The aim of the study was to evaluate the dimensionality and internal structure of the LiMP in patients attending for osteopathy care at a student-led clinic, as a potential measure of musculoskeletal health literacy.
Three hundred and sixty-one (n = 361) new patients attending the Victoria University Osteopathy Clinic completed the LiMP and a demographic and health information questionnaire prior to their initial consultation. Mokken scale analysis, a nonparametric item response theory approach, was used to evaluate the dimensionality and structure of the LiMP in this population, to ascertain whether the questionnaire was measuring a single latent construct – musculoskeletal health literacy. McDonald’s omega and Cronbach’s alpha were calculated as the reliability estimations. The relationship between the LiMP and a single item screen of health literacy was also undertaken.
The 9 items on the LiMP did not form a Mokken scale and the reliability estimations were below an acceptable level (alpha and omega <0.45). LiMP items 5 and 8 were more likely to be answered correctly by those with higher health literacy (p < 0.05), however the effect sizes were small (<0.20).
Calculation of a total score for the LiMP, as advocated by the original authors, is not supported based on data in the present study. Further research is required to explore the relationship of the LiMP items to demographic and clinical data, and to other broader measures of health literacy. Further research may also develop a health literacy measure that is specific to patients seeking manual therapy care for musculoskeletal complaints.