BACKGROUND: The COVID-19 pandemic has imposed a heavy burden on health care systems and governments. Health literacy (HL) and eHealth literacy (as measured by the eHealth Literacy Scale [eHEALS]) are recognized as strategic public health elements but they have been underestimated during the pandemic. HL, eHEALS score, practices, lifestyles, and the health status of health care workers (HCWs) play crucial roles in containing the COVID-19 pandemic.
OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study is to evaluate the psychometric properties of the eHEALS and examine associations of HL and eHEALS scores with adherence to infection prevention and control (IPC) procedures, lifestyle changes, and suspected COVID-19 symptoms among HCWs during lockdown.
METHODS: We conducted an online survey of 5209 HCWs from 15 hospitals and health centers across Vietnam from April 6 to April 19, 2020. Participants answered questions related to sociodemographics, HL, eHEALS, adherence to IPC procedures, behavior changes in eating, smoking, drinking, and physical activity, and suspected COVID-19 symptoms. Principal component analysis, correlation analysis, and bivariate and multivariate linear and logistic regression models were used to validate the eHEALS and examine associations.
RESULTS: The eHEALS had a satisfactory construct validity with 8 items highly loaded on one component, with factor loadings ranked from 0.78 to 0.92 explaining 76.34% of variance; satisfactory criterion validity as correlated with HL (ρ=0.42); satisfactory convergent validity with high item-scale correlations (ρ=0.80-0.84); and high internal consistency (Cronbach α=.95). HL and eHEALS scores were significantly higher in men (unstandardized coefficient [B]=1.01, 95% CI 0.57-1.45, P<.001; B=0.72, 95% CI 0.43-1.00, P<.001), those with a better ability to pay for medication (B=1.65, 95% CI 1.25-2.05, P<.001; B=0.60, 95% CI 0.34-0.86, P<.001), doctors (B=1.29, 95% CI 0.73-1.84, P<.001; B 0.56, 95% CI 0.20-0.93, P=.003), and those with epidemic containment experience (B=1.96, 95% CI 1.56-2.37, P<.001; B=0.64, 95% CI 0.38-0.91, P<.001), as compared to their counterparts, respectively. HCWs with higher HL or eHEALS scores had better adherence to IPC procedures (B=0.13, 95% CI 0.10-0.15, P<.001; B=0.22, 95% CI 0.19-0.26, P<.001), had a higher likelihood of healthy eating (odds ratio [OR] 1.04, 95% CI 1.01-1.06, P=.001; OR 1.04, 95% CI 1.02-1.07, P=.002), were more physically active (OR 1.03, 95% CI 1.02-1.03, P<.001; OR 1.04, 95% CI 1.03-1.05, P<.001), and had a lower likelihood of suspected COVID-19 symptoms (OR 0.97, 95% CI 0.96-0.98, P<.001; OR 0.96, 95% CI 0.95-0.98, P<.001), respectively.
CONCLUSIONS: The eHEALS is a valid and reliable survey tool. Gender, ability to pay for medication, profession, and epidemic containment experience were independent predictors of HL and eHEALS scores. HCWs with higher HL or eHEALS scores had better adherence to IPC procedures, healthier lifestyles, and a lower likelihood of suspected COVID-19 symptoms. Efforts to improve HCWs' HL and eHEALS scores can help to contain the COVID-19 pandemic and minimize its consequences.