Health Literacy, Health Communications, Health Education
Improving Health Literacy and Cultural Competency of FDA Consumer Materials on Cardiovascular Disease
Jonathan Fix (School of Public Health (UMD) Epidemiology and Biostatistics Undergraduate Student)
Background: People with serious chronic health conditions such as cardiovascular disease (CVD), and those facing barriers to the traditional healthcare system, often use the internet to obtain health information. However, low health literacy, or the ability to understand and process health information in order to make informed healthy decisions, can act as a barrier to chronic disease management. Objective: Assess the health literacy and cultural competency of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) consumer web pages on CVD. Methods: A grading rubric was developed according to best practices in assessing cultural competency, readability and plain language aspects of written materials, and applied by 2 reviewers to 25 consumer pages on CVD (hypertension, ACE inhibitors, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease). A systematic review of the literature was conducted to identify consumer preferences when seeking information online regarding cardiovascular disease prevention or management. Results: Most of the web pages were cluttered with lots of words and few graphics and white space. The average Flesch Kincaid reading level for the webpages was 10.3. The majority of the web pages did not provide contact information for questions, or mention a particular racial/ethnic group directly or indirectly. Conclusions: These results underscore the need to get consumer input during development of materials intended for dissemination through the Internet. Learning how to communicate public health information through a variety of media to diverse audience is a key component of undergraduate public health education, and communication skills and cultural competency are core competencies for public health professionals.
Importance to public health: