Evaluation of literacy level of patient education pages in health-related journals

J Community Health. 2005 Jun;30(3):213-9. doi: 10.1007/s10900-004-1959-x.


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.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Educational Status*
  • Health Education*
  • Humans
  • Periodicals as Topic*
  • Reading*