Online Program

Adherence to federal plain language guidelines: A content analysis of physical activity informational websites

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Samantha Paige, MPH, Department of Health Education and Behavior, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
David Black, PhD, MPH, CHES, Department of Health and Kinesiology, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN
Michael Stellefson, Ph.D., University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
Background: The Plain Writing Act of 2010 requires federally-funded agencies to provide the public with easy-to-read information. Because various search engines and keywords are utilized to locate health-related information online, public Internet users may face challenges accessing physical activity information that is consistently easy-to-read and promotes self-efficacy.

Objective: To explore whether physical activity websites adhere to federal plain language guidelines and promote self-efficacy.

Method: Three keyword searches (“physical activity”, “exercise”, “fitness”) were conducted using 3 Internet search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo) to locate a nonprobability-census sample (n=61) of physical activity websites. Each website was coded according to Plain Language Action and Information Network guidelines and Bandura’s sources of self-efficacy. Data were analyzed using chi-squared analyses.

Result: Most website sources (n=53; 86.9%) promoted self-efficacy. Government websites were more likely to use common vocabulary terms compared with all other website sources (p=.008); yet, government websites were also less likely to incorporate graphics promoting webpage text (p=.041) or active/relevant hyperlinks (p=.005). Compared with all other website sources, organizational websites were less likely to present information in an active voice (p=.031). Compared with all other keywords, “physical activity” yielded more websites with paragraphs less than 8-sentences/250-words (p=.018) but yielded fewer websites incorporating graphics to promote webpage text (p=.001).

Discussion: Plain language adherence varies by physical activity website source and keyword, yet self-efficacy is consistently promoted. Healthcare policymakers should provide continuous plain language training to website developers, and explore the accuracy of online physical activity recommendations according to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.

Learning Areas:

Conduct evaluation related to programs, research, and other areas of practice
Public health or related education
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Compare how adherence to federal plain language guidelines on physical activity websites varies by website source (i.e., government, organizational, educational, commercial) Compare how adherence to federal plain language guidelines on physical activity websites varies by entered search keyword (i.e. “physical activity,” “fitness,” “exercise”) Identify whether physical activity websites promote self-efficacy information

Keyword(s): Physical Activity, Health Literacy

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a doctoral student at the University of Florida, where I serve as a graduate research assistant for the Department of Health Education and Behavior. In this capacity, I am actively involved in projects utilizing content analysis methodology to explore digital health channels (e.g., social media, informational websites) and topics related to eHealth literacy, plain language, and modifiable behavioral risk-factors that contribute to chronic disease prevention and self-management (e.g., physical activity).
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.