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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.

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Correspondence to Nancy Cotugna.

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Cotugna, N., Vickery, C.E. & Carpenter-Haefele, K.M. EVALUATION OF LITERACY LEVEL OF PATIENT EDUCATION PAGES IN HEALTH-RELATED JOURNALS . J Community Health 30, 213–219 (2005).

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  • Literacy
  • patient education
  • readability
  • health information