Health Literacy: Readability of ACC/AHA Online Patient Education Material

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Objectives: To determine whether the online patient education material offered by the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and the American Heart Association (AHA) is written at a higher level than the 6th-7th grade level recommended by the National Institute of Health (NIH). Methods: Online patient education material from each website was subjected to reading grade level (RGL) analysis using the Readability Studio Professional Edition. One-sample t testing was used to compare the mean RGLs obtained from 8 formulas to the NIH-recommended 6.5 grade level and 8th grade national mean. Results: In total, 372 articles from the ACC website and 82 from the AHA were studied. Mean (±SD) RGLs for the 454 articles were 9.6 ± 2.1, 11.2 ± 2.1, 11.9 ± 1.6, 10.8 ± 1.6, 9.7 ± 2.1, 10.8 ± 0.8, 10.5 ± 2.6, and 11.7 ± 3.5 according to the Flesch-Kincaid grade level (FKGL), Simple Measure of Gobbledygook (SMOG Index), Coleman-Liau Index (CLI), Gunning-Fog Index (GFI), New Dale-Chall reading level formula (NDC), FORCAST, Raygor Readability Estimate (RRE), and Fry Graph (Fry), respectively. All analyzed articles had significantly higher RGLs than both the NIH-recommended grade level of 6.5 and the national mean grade level of 8 (p < 0.00625). Conclusions: Patient education material provided on the ACC and AHA websites is written above the NIH-recommended 6.5 grade level and 8th grade national mean reading level. Additional studies are required to demonstrate whether lowering the RGL of this material improves outcomes among patients with cardiovascular disease.

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