Public COVID-19 Information Written at Too High a Level

Most public health guidelines should be written at sixth- to eighth-grade reading levels

Woman using laptop computer late at night

FRIDAY, Aug. 21, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Online information about the COVID-19 pandemic posted by the World Health Organization, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other public health organizations worldwide may be too difficult for many people to understand, a new study suggests.

Researchers assessed the readability of COVID-19 information on three public health agencies and 15 official government websites and found they exceeded recommendations for most public health guidelines to be written at sixth- to eighth-grade reading levels, CNN reported.

For example, COVID-19 information was at or above the 11th-grade level on the CDC website and other U.S. government websites, just below a 12th-grade level on the WHO website, and just above a 13th-grade level on the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control website, according to the study published online Aug. 18 in JAMA Network Open.

"The purpose of the readability and clear communication guidelines are to make sure that public health information is accessible in an equitable manner to all audiences," study author Joseph Dexter, Ph.D., a fellow at the Institute for Computational Science at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, told CNN. "The hope is that you will reach as wide an audience as possible. When that doesn't happen, it opens up the potential for exacerbating inequality in access to information."

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