Can people read the literature we give them?

Can people read the literature we give them?

R. Holman

Department of Sexual Health, Ayrshire and Arran Primary Care NHSTrust,

Irvine, Scotland

Objectives: To assess whether the literature provided by the Sexual

Health service is compatible with the functional health literacy level of

service users.

Design & Methods: 1. Assessment of reading ability of service

users aged over 16 attending a family planning clinic for contraception using

REALM (Rapid Assessment of Adult Literacy in Medicine). 2. Analysis of written

information given out in clinics by SMOG-Simplified Measure Of Gobbledygook (for

readability score) and SAM (Suitability Assessment of Materials for readers with

low literacy skills) which considers factors such as layout. The information

included pack inserts from contraception and information leaflets. 

Results: 22 people took part. The REALM test suggested that 9 (40%)

would have difficulty fully understanding most patient education materials. Of

44 leaflets assessed, the mean SMOG readability score was 10.5 suggesting that

35 (79%) of leaflets would not be understood by people with low literacy skills.

The SAM rated 2 leaflets as suitable for readers with low literacy skills.

Conclusions: 23% of Scots have low literacy skills. Low literacy is

associated with poorer health outcomes. Written information is increasingly

provided for health service users, but written information currently supplied in

our clinics may not be fully understood by many clients because of the way it is

written and presented. The challenge is to minimise the disadvantage of low

literacy by providing understandable information in appropriate formats.

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