Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health

, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp 622–630 | Cite as

Health Literacy, Acculturation, and the Use of Preventive Oral Health Care by Somali Refugees Living in Massachusetts

  • Paul L. Geltman
  • Jo Hunter Adams
  • Katherine L. Penrose
  • Jennifer Cochran
  • Denis Rybin
  • Gheorghe Doros
  • Michelle Henshaw
  • Michael Paasche-Orlow
Original Paper


This study investigated the impact of English health literacy and spoken proficiency and acculturation on preventive dental care use among Somali refugees in Massachusetts. 439 adult Somalis in the US ≤10 years were interviewed. English functional health literacy, dental word recognition, and spoken proficiency were measured using STOFHLA, REALD, and BEST Plus. Logistic regression tested associations of language measures with preventive dental care use. Without controlling for acculturation, participants with higher health literacy were 2.0 times more likely to have had preventive care (P = 0.02). Subjects with higher word recognition were 1.8 times as likely to have had preventive care (P = 0.04). Controlling for acculturation, these were no longer significant, and spoken proficiency was not associated with increased preventive care use. English health literacy and spoken proficiency were not associated with preventive dental care. Other factors, like acculturation, were more predictive of care use than language skills.


Refugees  Preventive dental care  Acculturation  Health literacy 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul L. Geltman
    • 1
  • Jo Hunter Adams
    • 1
  • Katherine L. Penrose
    • 1
  • Jennifer Cochran
    • 1
  • Denis Rybin
    • 2
  • Gheorghe Doros
    • 2
  • Michelle Henshaw
    • 3
  • Michael Paasche-Orlow
    • 4
  1. 1.Refugee and Immigrant Health ProgramMassachusetts Department of Public HealthJamaica PlainUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biostatistics, Data Coordinating CenterBoston University School of Public HealthBostonUSA
  3. 3.Department of Health Policy and Health Services ResearchBoston University Goldman School of Dental MedicineBostonUSA
  4. 4.Division of General Internal MedicineBoston University School of MedicineBostonUSA

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