S H O R T R E P O R T Open Access
Validation of the French version of the
Functional, Communicative and Critical
Health Literacy scale (FCCHL)
Youssoufa M. Ousseine
, Alexandra Rouquette
, Anne-Déborah Bouhnik
, Laurent Rigal
, Virginie Ringa
and Julien Mancini
Background: Health literacy is a key asset, defined as the capacity to acquire, understand and use information in
ways which promote and maintain good health.
Objectives: To assess the reliability and validity of the French translation of the Functional, Communicative and
Critical Health Literacy (FCCHL) scale.
Methods/participants: A cross-sectional survey using an online questionnaire was proposed to all members of
Seintinelles association. Exploratory and confirmatory factorial analyses were conducted.
Results: Data from 2342 respondents (45.8% had cancer history) were analysed. The FCCHL scale was well-accepted
(missing value by item ≤0.7%). Factor analysis revealed an acceptable fit of three-factor model (comparative fit index = 0.
922, root mean square error of approximation = 0.065 and standardized root mean square residual = 0.052). The FCCHL
showed satisfactory reliability (α= 0.77) and scalar invariance was reached for education and deprivation, but not for age.
Known group validity was verified as mean scale scores differed according to education, deprivation and age, as expected.
Conclusion: The French version of the FCCHL provides a brief reliable and valid measure to explore the dimensions of
health literacy. It could be used by health professionals to screen for health literacy level in order to develop this skill and
to tailor health communication.
Keywords: Health literacy, Measurement, Validation studies, Psychometrics, Cancer, France
Health literacy (HL) is a key asset, defined as “the indi-
viduals' capacity to obtain, process and understand basic
health information and services needed to make appro-
priate health decisions”[1, 2]. Consistently, authors like
Nutbeam  distinguish three skills: functional literacy,
which includes basic skills in reading and writing neces-
sary to understand health information; communicative
literacy, which corresponds to the necessary advanced
skills to communicate or interact with the healthcare
system; and critical literacy to analyse the information
obtained to act at best. Accordingly, the Functional,
Communicative and Critical Health Literacy scale
(FCCHL) measures all three distinguished dimensions of
HL . A generic tool  was adapted from the first ver-
sion developed to specifically evaluate HL in diabetic pa-
tients  and has been validated in several populations
including Dutch/German citizens [6–8], and Australian
Adolescents and Young Adults with cancer . This
brief instrument (14-items) has demonstrated relevance
to patients and ease of administration . However, no
validation of FCCHL exists in French.
Validated translations of HL measures are needed, as a
growing literature has shown the importance of evaluat-
ing HL in both patients and general population. Indeed,
limited HL predicts poorer health and has demonstrated
associations with several patient-reported outcomes,
* Correspondence: email@example.com
Aix-Marseille Univ, INSERM, IRD, UMR912, SESSTIM, Institut Paoli-Calmettes,
“Cancers, Biomedicine & Society”group, 232, Bd Ste Marguerite, BP 156,
13273 Marseille Cedex 9, France
APHM, Timone Hospital, Public Health Department (BIOSTIC), Marseille,
Full list of author information is available at the end of the article
Journal of Patient-
© The Author(s). 2018 Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0
International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and
reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to
the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.
Ousseine et al. Journal of Patient-Reported Outcomes (2018) 2:3
such as poorer health-related quality of life and more
mental distress among cancer patients .
Our aim was the psychometric evaluation of the
French translation of the FCCHL scale.
The FCCHL was translated from English to French by
three independent researchers. The final version of each
item was then chosen with the help of a bilingual psych-
ologist. Individual cognitive interviews were then con-
ducted with six cancer patients to evaluate the wording
and understanding of the translated items. Minor refine-
ments were then made comparing our translation with
the translation from the Japanese to French made by
other French researchers.
Data were collected using a self-administered online
questionnaire proposed to all adult members of Seinti-
nelles (www.seintinelles.com) between June 16th and
30th, 2016. Seintinelles is a French national association
including 12,747 members (participant numbers as de-
clared on January 15th 2016) who are cancer patients,
cancer survivors and/or other people (e.g. caregivers)
“wishing to help cancer research”. They are mostly
breast cancer patients because it was initially created
based on the model of Army of Women®. Use of Seinti-
nelles enabled the rapid recruitment of a large sample
for psychometric validation of the French translation of
the FCCHL scale. The final sample size was larger than
the minimum of 500 to 800 respondents needed to per-
form exploratory factorial analysis for a three-factor
scale with 10 to 15 items .
Floor or ceiling effects at the scale level were consid-
ered to be present if more than 15% of respondents
achieved the lowest or highest possible score, respect-
ively . At the item level, these effects were consid-
ered to be present if more than 95% answered the lowest
or highest response category . Reliability was
assessed by Cronbach’s alpha (α) with values α≥0.7 con-
sidered satisfactory .
An exploratory factor analysis (EFA) was performed
on one third of the sample, randomly selected. To assess
construct validity, confirmatory factor analysis (CFA),
based on the factorial structure found using EFA and in
literature, was subsequently conducted on the other
two-thirds of the sample. Multiple-group CFA and
nested model comparisons were used to evaluate meas-
urement invariance across age groups, education levels
and deprivation using the following sequence: configural,
metric and scalar invariance. The robust weighted least
squares (WLSMV) estimator was used for both EFA and
CFA [16, 17]. The root mean square error of approxima-
tion (RMSEA, good fit if <0.06, poor fit if ≥0.10, accept-
able elsewhere), the comparative fit index (CFI) and the
Tucker-Lewis index (CFI and TLI, good fit if >0.95, poor
fit if <0.90, acceptable elsewhere) were used to exam-
ine model fit . For measurement invariance, each
level of invariance was considered to be met if the fit
indices difference between each level was equal or
less than −0.01 for ΔCFI and equal or less than 0.015
for ΔRMSEA [19, 20]. When a level of invariance was
not met, non-invariant items were identified by
reviewing modification indices in order to release
equality constraints concerning these items until par-
tial invariance was met.
Our a priori hypotheses were that a higher HL would
be associated with higher education, younger age, French
as mother language and lack of deprivation [4, 21, 22].
Student’s t tests and ANOVAs were used to compare
mean FCCHL levels.
All analyses were two-tailed and performed using SPSS
PAWS Statistics 18.0 and Mplus software version 7.4. P-
values <0.05 were considered significant.
In June 2016, 2444 participants were surveyed after ex-
cluding 124 participants (4.8%) who only completed
their sociodemographic characteristics. Missing values
by item ranged from 0.1% (FCCHL6) to 0.7% (FCCHL3
and FCCHL5) and 2342 participants (95.8%) answered
all 14 items of the FCCHL scale. The following results
were obtained from participants with complete data of
FCCHL (n= 2342).
The mean age of those 2342 participants was 47.6 years
(SD = 13.6), 96.4% of participants were women, 45.8% had
a history of cancer and 18.1% were deprived (Table 1).
The lowest total score was 27 (versus a possible 14)
and 32 respondents (1.4%) had the highest score possible
(70) indicating no floor or ceiling effect at the scale level.
The percentages of respondents for each of the response
categories range from 1% to 72% over the 14 items, indi-
cating no floor or ceiling effects at the item level. Glo-
bally, correlations between the different items within
each dimension were >0.4 (ranging from 0.41 to 0.76)
(Additional file 1: Table S1).
The EFA with promax rotation revealed three factors,
explaining 55% of the variance. The loading matrix ob-
tained is shown in Table 2. Among the four items for crit-
ical HL, three clearly loaded on the third factor but the
last item (FCCHL14) loaded on the second factor (0.42).
CFA indicated reasonable fit indices for a 3-factor model
(with correlation between 3-factors, Fig. 1): RMSEA = 0.087
(90% confidence interval 0.082–0.092), CFI = 0.946 and
TLI = 0.933. When the item FCCHL14 was modelled in the
second dimension, fit indices were: RMSEA = 0.086
(90% confidence interval 0.081–0.091) and CFI = 0.947
and TLI = 0.935. A significant decrease (3 and 2
factor nested model test, p< 0.001) in model fit was
observed when communicative and critical dimensions
Ousseine et al. Journal of Patient-Reported Outcomes (2018) 2:3 Page 2 of 6
were merged in a single “processing”dimension
(RMSEA = 0.123, CFI = 0.888 and TLI = 0.866).
Cronbach’sαwere >0.7 for the overall scale (α= 0.77)
and subscales (α= 0.79, α= 0.74 and α= 0.77 for func-
tional, communicative and critical dimensions respect-
ively). Communicative and critical HL were moderately
linked together (r= 0.46) and weakly correlated with the
functional dimension (r= 0.15 and r= 0.03).
Scalar invariance was reached for education levels and
deprivation, but not for age (Additional file 1: Table S2).
However, partial scalar invariance was reached in releas-
ing the fourth threshold of FCCHL2 in the 18–40 years-
old age group. That means that this threshold was
significantly lower (0.049) than in the older age groups
(0.691), i.e. at the same level of functional HL, older
people responded more frequently than younger people
that they agreed with the fact that they felt the print was
too small for them to read.
Age showed negative associations with FCCHL but not
with the communicative dimension (Table 3). When the
functional HL or FCCHL score was calculated using the
four or thirteen age-invariant items only (without FCCHL2),
no association was observed with age (p-value = 0.411
or p-value = 0.053). A higher education level and lack
of deprivation were significantly associated with higher
levels of HL, except that deprivation was not associated
with critical HL. In contrast having French as mother lan-
guage (97.8%) was only associated with higher functional
HL. No gender differences were observed.
Our results confirmed similar or better psychometric
properties of the French version of the FCCHL scale
compared with the original version .
Consistent with previous studies [5–7], exploratory
analysis revealed a 3-factor model confirming the overall
structure of the scale, with satisfactory internal
consistency of each FCCHL dimension. Similar to results
among German citizens showing a 2-factor model com-
bining communicative and critical HL into “processing
HL”, these two dimensions were the most correlated
here. A single item of the critical dimension (FCCHL14)
primarily loaded on the communicative dimension. This
dual loading might be explained in light of the wording
of this item, because ‘collect’can reflect accessing infor-
mation by communication, while ‘make’refers more to
critical aspects needed for making decisions. As no
major differences in fit indices were observed when
FCCHL14 was included in the communicative dimen-
sion, this item was left in the critical dimension to be
more consistent with the original version.
The internal consistency of each FCCHL dimension was
satisfactory. Our findings differ slightly from previous
findings in Dutch citizens  and young Australian cancer
patients , which found that internal consistency of the
communicative dimension was less satisfactory (α=0.63
in both studies). These differences may be explained by
fewer items (n= 3) in the FCCHL-AYAC for the commu-
nicative dimension and difficulties answering items
reported by Dutch citizens. In the latter study, items
seemed to be too abstract and citizens clearly underlined
that they did not understand what was meant by ‘applying
information to their daily life’or by ‘considering whether
information was applicable’.
As hypothesized and in line with previous studies [4, 21,
22], people with lower education had lower HL compared
to people with higher education. Furthermore, socioeco-
nomic deprivation tended to be associated with lower HL,
except for the critical dimension as previously reported [4,
22]. Only the functional dimension of FCCHL was able to
discriminate the few participants who had a mother lan-
guage other than French highlighting difficulties under-
standing health information associated with potential
difficulties understanding French generally.
The negative association between age and functional
HL or FCCHL total score disappeared when those scores
Table 1 Main participants’characteristics (n= 2342)
Sociodemographic and medical history n %
18–40 777 33.2
41–60 1111 47.4
61–83 454 19.4
Female Gender 2258 96.4
French maternal language 2269 97 .8
Primary/secondary 279 11.9
≤Three-years higher education 958 40.9
> Three-years higher education 1105 47.2
Deprivation (EPICES Index) 409 18.1
Cancer history 1073 45.8
Difficulties in asking physicians questions
Always (1) 37 1.6
Often (2) 229 9.8
Sometimes (3) 735 31.4
Rarely (4) 669 28.6
Never (5) 632 27
Missing values 40 1.7
Health literacy Possible range Mean SD
FCCHL 14–70 55.58 7.06
Functional dimension 5–25 18.95 4.18
Communicative dimension 5–25 20.66 3.01
Critical dimension 4–20 15.96 3.08
FCCHL Functional, Communicative and Critical Health Literacy
Ousseine et al. Journal of Patient-Reported Outcomes (2018) 2:3 Page 3 of 6
were computed without the FCCHL2 item found to be
non-invariant across age groups. This is likely due to
differing interpretations of this item between younger
and older people and highlights that spurious age differ-
ences may be observed when FCCHL2 is used. It also
questions the association between age and FCCHL that
was observed in a previous study  and suggests that
measurement invariance across age should also be stud-
ied for FCCHL versions in other languages, as recom-
mended in the guidelines . In our study, the critical
HL score was thus the only one that was significantly
negatively associated with age and it might reflect lower
empowerment among older people . The lack of
impact of age on the communicative dimension was ex-
pected . It might also be explained by our recruitment
of persons, very involved in research and registered to
participate in mainly online surveys, who might not have
difficulties communicating no matter their age.
Our study has some limitations. We were unable to
compare the translated FCCHL against an objective test
of functional HL. Moreover, our sample included mainly
women (96%), who were highly educated and had
French as their mother language. However the sample
was more heterogeneous regarding age and cancer his-
tory and the FCCHL showed variability despite them be-
ing negatively skewed (Additional file 1: Figure S1).
Table 2 Factor structure of the FCCHL scale. (n= 781, Training sample)
Functional health literacy
FCCHL1 Find characters that I cannot read 0.75 −0.01 0.08 0.66
FCCHL2 Feel that the print is too small for me to read 0.59 −0.09 −0.08 0.43
FCCHL3 Feel that the content is too difficult for me to understand 0.93 0.03 0.02 0.88
FCCHL4 Feel that it takes a long time to read them 0.70 0.02 −0.01 0.50
FCCHL5 Need someone to help me read them 0.66 0.03 −0.05 0.46
Communicative health literacy
FCCHL6 Collect information from various sources 0.02 0.78 −0.04 0.66
FCCHL7 Extract the information I want −0.03 0.71 −0.03 0.52
FCCHL8 Understand the obtained information 0.24 0.62 0.06 0.48
FCCHL9 Communicate my opinion about my illness −0.08 0.73 0.08 0.46
FCCHL10 Apply the obtained information to my daily life 0.02 0.68 0.04 0.45
Critical health literacy
FCCHL11 Consider whether the information is applicable to me −0.02 0.23 −0.71 0.73
FCCHL12 Consider whether the information is credible −0.01 −0.07 −0.97 0.86
FCCHL13 Check whether the information is valid and reliable 0.01 0.09 −0.68 0.54
FCCHL14 Collect information to make my healthcare decisions −0.04 0.42 −0.27 0.37
Loading values higher than 0.4 are bolded
Fig. 1 Standardized parameter estimates for the 3-factor model of FCCHL (n= 1561, validation sample). Rectangles represent the observed variables
(items) and ellipses represent the latent constructs (factors). Values on the single-headed arrows leading from the factors to the items are standardized
factor loadings. Values on the curved double-headed arrows are correlations between factors terms
Ousseine et al. Journal of Patient-Reported Outcomes (2018) 2:3 Page 4 of 6
FCCHL also presented good acceptability, as indicated
by low levels of missing data, which might be attribut-
able to respondents’high HL.
In this first validation study of a self-report multidi-
mensional health literacy scale in France, the French ver-
sion of the FCCHL demonstrated adequate reliability
and validity among cancer patients and general popula-
tion. It highlighted that measurement invariance across
age should be studied more systematically when validat-
ing HL measures. Further studies are needed to examine
the French FCCHL stability among less educated, less
literate samples including more men and those without
French as their mother language. This relatively brief
measure could be used among both patients and general
population to allow identification of people with low HL
in order to develop this skill and to tailor health com-
Additional file 1: Table S1. Distribution of the responses to the different
items on the questionnaire and polychoric correlations between the various
FCCHL items (n= 2342). Table S2. Measurement invariance across age
groups, education levels, and deprivation. Figure S1. Distribution of FCCHL
score and subscores. (DOCX 77 kb)
We particularly thank all members of Seintinelles association. We are also
grateful to Cyril Berenger for his help to implement the e-survey.
The project leading to this publication has received funding from Excellence
Initiative of Aix-Marseille University - A*MIDEX, a French “Investissements
d’Avenir”program. This work was supported by the French National Cancer
Institute (grant number INCA_8102); IRESP (grant number RINGA-AAP16-HSR-13)
for French teams collaboration; the funding partners of the IRESP in the
framework of the “2016 call for general project Health services”.
All authors of this research paper have made substantial contributions to all
of the following: (1) the conception and design of the study, or acquisition
of data, or analysis and interpretation of data, (2) drafting the article or revising
it critically for important intellectual content. All authors have read and
Ethics approval and consent to participate
This study has been approved by the Inserm Ethics Committee (IRB00003888, N
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published
maps and institutional affiliations.
Aix-Marseille Univ, INSERM, IRD, UMR912, SESSTIM, Institut Paoli-Calmettes,
“Cancers, Biomedicine & Society”group, 232, Bd Ste Marguerite, BP 156,
13273 Marseille Cedex 9, France.
Public Health and Epidemiology
Department, APHP, Bicêtre Hospital, Le Kremlin-Bicêtre, France.
Paris-Saclay, Univ. Paris-Sud, UVSQ, CESP, INSERM, Le Kremlin Bicêtre, France.
Centre for Oncology Education and Research Translation (CONCERT),
Ingham Institute for Applied Medical Research & South Western Sydney
Clinical School, University of New South Wales, Liverpool, NSW, Australia.
Psycho-Oncology Co-operative Research Group (PoCoG), School of
Psychology, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia.
APHM, Timone Hospital,
Public Health Department (BIOSTIC), Marseille, France.
Table 3 Bivariate relationships between FCCHL and sociodemographic characteristics (n= 2342)
Functional HL Communicative HL Critical HL FCCHL
Mean ± SD P Mean ± SD P Mean ± SD P Mean ± SD P
18–40 19.57 ± 3.93 <0.001
20.63 ± 2.78 0.617 16.32 ± 2.75 <0.001 56.53 ± 6.32 <0.001
41–60 18.70 ± 4.27 20.62 ± 3.12 15.86 ± 3.13 55.20 ± 7.34
61–83 18.49 ± 4.27 20.78 ± 3.15 15.60 ± 3.43 54.88 ± 7.38
French maternal Language
No 17.35 ± 4.95 0.006 20.96 ± 2.96 0.472 16.68 ± 2.36 0.094 55.59 ± 7.04 0.548
Yes 18.98 ± 4.16 20.65 ± 3.01 15.95 ± 3.09 55.00 ± 6.95
Primary/secondary 17.36 ± 4.36 <0.001 20.11 ± 3.30 <0.001 15.57 ± 3.23 <0.001 53.05 ± 7.47 <0.001
≤Three-years higher education 18.71 ± 4.12 20.48 ± 2.95 15.63 ± 3.15 54.84 ± 6.78
> Three-years higher education 19.56 ± 4.05 20.94 ± 2.96 16.34 ± 2.94 56.86 ± 6.92
Deprivation (EPICES Index)
No 19.13 ± 4.08 <0.001 20.73 ± 3.02 0.003 15.97 ± 3.06 0.721 55.84 ± 7.00 <0.001
Yes 18.29 ± 4.42 20.25 ± 2.98 15.91 ± 3.17 54.46 ± 7.02
HL Health Literacy, FCCHL Functional, Communicative and Critical Health Literacy
p-value = 0.411 if functional HL score computed without FCCHL2, item found to be non-invariant across age groups
p-value = 0.053 if FCCHL score computed without FCCHL2, item found to be non-invariant across age groups
Ousseine et al. Journal of Patient-Reported Outcomes (2018) 2:3 Page 5 of 6
Received: 9 August 2017 Accepted: 4 January 2018
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