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Readability and suitability of commony used tobacco education materials

Paul Gilbert, MS, Center for Health Improvement and Prevention Studies, University of California San Francisco, 350 Parnassus Avenue #905, San Francisco, CA 94117, 415-502-7288, pgilbert@itsa.ucsf.edu

Since the first Surgeon General’s report on smoking in 1964, both knowledge about the risks of tobacco use and interest in its prevention have increased dramatically. More recently, there has been growing interest in health literacy, defined as the reading, writing, and numeracy skills needed to obtain and use health information. Despite these parallel trends there has been little crossover between the two fields. Health literacy remains an underexamined aspect of tobacco control efforts despite the ongoing reliance on the written word for patient education.

A study was conducted to examine the literacy level of commonly used tobacco education materials. A convenience sample of pamphlets (n=21) was collected from a college health center, a community health center, and two hospitals. Literacy demand was assessed using the Fry and SMOG readability formulas. Suitability of materials was assessed using the SAM instrument. Literacy demand ranged from grade 5 to grade 12. Half the sample (n=10) scored above the national average adult literacy level. While no material was deemed inadequate, only half the sample (n=10) was found to have “superior” suitability. Few pamphlets (n=4) were specifically designed for low literacy adults.

While this study shows a general improvement in readability from earlier examinations of tobacco education materials, there remains a gap between the literacy level of materials offered to the public and the average adult’s reading ability.

Learning Objectives:

Keywords: Literacy, Tobacco

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

Alcohol and Tobacco: Public Education and Media Advocacy

The 132nd Annual Meeting (November 6-10, 2004) of APHA