Can people read the literature we give them?
Department of Sexual Health, Ayrshire and Arran Primary Care NHSTrust,
Objectives: To assess whether the literature provided by the Sexual
Health service is compatible with the functional health literacy level of
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.