Journal of Community Health

, Volume 30, Issue 3, pp 213–219 | Cite as


  • Nancy Cotugna
  • Connie E. Vickery
  • Kara M. Carpenter-Haefele


The purpose of this study was to evaluate the reading level of patient education material from selected current health care journals. Ten patient education pages from a variety of health care journals were entered into a Microsoft Word program. Applying the Flesch–Kincaid readability formula available from Microsoft Word, a reading level for each page was established and compared to recommended standards. Only 2 of 10 patient education pages fell within the recommended reading levels for health-related materials, and 5 of 10 were above the estimated mean U.S. reading level of 8th grade. A 5th to 6th grade level is recommended for patient education materials. This study suggests that although it is known that low health literacy is a widespread problem, it is not always considered when patient-targeted materials are developed. Health care professionals need to become more active in addressing the literacy needs of the intended receiver of written health-related information.


Literacy patient education  readability  health information 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nancy Cotugna
    • 1
  • Connie E. Vickery
    • 1
  • Kara M. Carpenter-Haefele
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise SciencesUniversity of DelawareNewark

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