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How Accessible Was Information about H1N1 Flu? Literacy Assessments of CDC Guidance Documents for Different Audiences
Published: Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Author: Lisa P. Lagassé et al.

by Lisa P. Lagassé, Rajiv N. Rimal, Katherine C. Smith, J. Douglas Storey, Elizabeth Rhoades, Daniel J. Barnett, Saad B. Omer, Jonathan Links

We assessed the literacy level and readability of online communications about H1N1/09 influenza issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) during the first month of outbreak. Documents were classified as targeting one of six audiences ranging in technical expertise. Flesch-Kincaid (FK) measure assessed literacy level for each group of documents. ANOVA models tested for differences in FK scores across target audiences and over time. Readability was assessed for documents targeting non-technical audiences using the Suitability Assessment of Materials (SAM). Overall, there was a main-effect by audience, F(5, 82)?=?29.72, P<.001, but FK scores did not vary over time, F(2, 82)?=?.34, P>.05. A time-by-audience interaction was significant, F(10, 82)?=?2.11, P<.05. Documents targeting non-technical audiences were found to be text-heavy and densely-formatted. The vocabulary and writing style were found to adequately reflect audience needs. The reading level of CDC guidance documents about H1N1/09 influenza varied appropriately according to the intended audience; sub-optimal formatting and layout may have rendered some text difficult to comprehend.