Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Communication Studies

Committee Chair

Keith D. Weber

Committee Co-Chair

Melanie Booth-Butterfield

Committee Member

Matthew M. Martin

Committee Member

Scott A. Myers

Committee Member

Melissa Wanzer


The purpose of this dissertation was twofold. The first purpose was to develop a valid and reliable measurement of health literacy appropriate for use in social science. The second purpose was to determine whether health literacy is a skill set that can be increased through the intervention efforts of communication studies scholars. These purposes were addressed across four studies. The results of exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis provided support for a 26-item revised Perceived Oral Health Literacy Scale (LaBelle & Weber, 2013) which assesses individuals' Motivation and Ability to gain access to, understand, and use health information in order to promote and maintain good health. Conceptually, this measure is consistent with the definition of health literacy put forth by the World Health Organization (2014), thus offering evidence of its content validity. Empirically, the results across the four studies provide strong evidence for the validity of the revised POHLS. Evidence for construct validity was provided by the measures positive relationships to patient self-efficacy, response efficacy and perceived health competence, while also being negatively related to trait and dyadic communication anxiety. Further evidence of construct validity was suggested by known groups differences in the POHLS scores obtained between individuals who had completed a semester long course in Health Communication and those who had completed a course in an unrelated topic. Evidence for the criterion- related validity of the measure was not supported, as the revised POHLS was not related to individuals' physiological indicators of health or stage of readiness to change behaviors related to obesity and diabetes prevention. The results of a pretest-posttest nonequivalent groups design did not provide support for the effectiveness of a brief educational intervention to increase individuals' health literacy; however, the known-groups assessment offers support to conduct further research on this topic. Taken together, these results provide support for the revised POHLS as a reliable and valid measure of health literacy appropriate for use in social science research.