A health literacy assessment of the epilepsy.com website

Seizure. 2009 Jul;18(6):434-9. doi: 10.1016/j.seizure.2009.04.003. Epub 2009 May 6.


Current healthcare guidelines identify low health literacy as a major barrier to optimal health communication. Health literacy is defined as the degree to which individuals can obtain, process and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions. An estimated 90 million people in the U.S. have marginal health literacy. The Institute of Medicine and the U.S. Department of Education recommend that health related information be written at the 6th-8th grade level to address low health literacy. Epidemiological studies demonstrate that persons with epilepsy have significantly lower educational attainment and lower incomes placing them at risk for low health literacy and limited Internet access. While Internet users tend to have higher educational attainment, previous research indicates even good readers prefer simpler rather than more complex medical information. Health educational content that could be printed and given to patients addresses an important need in clinical epilepsy care. Previous reviews of health websites found they exceed recommended readability levels. Two online programs were used to assess the reading level of 1327 web pages on the www.epilepsy.com website using established readability formulas. Based on the Flesch Reading Ease assessment, only 3% of epilepsy.com web pages are written for a 6th grade reading level or below. If 8th grade level or below is used as the standard, only 15% are adequate. Recommendations and examples are provided for improving the readability of epilepsy-specific health education content.

MeSH terms

  • Anticonvulsants / therapeutic use
  • Educational Status
  • Epilepsy / drug therapy
  • Epilepsy / epidemiology
  • Epilepsy / psychology*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Medical Informatics / methods*
  • Online Systems / supply & distribution*
  • Reading


  • Anticonvulsants