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Comparison of Readability of Official Public Health Information About COVID-19 on Websites of International Agencies and the Governments of 15 Countries

Educational Objective
To understand the importance of ensuring full accessibility of Official Public Health Information about COVID-19 on governmental websites
1 Credit CME

Containment strategies for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic have required broad public compliance, yet complex, contradictory, and false information proliferates.1 The American Medical Association (AMA), National Institutes of Health (NIH), and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that medical information for the public be written at no higher than an eighth-grade reading level.2 We evaluated the readability of online information about COVID-19 provided by government and public health agencies and departments.

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CME Disclosure Statement: Unless noted, all individuals in control of content reported no relevant financial relationships. If applicable, all relevant financial relationships have been mitigated.

Article Information

Accepted for Publication: July 14, 2020.

Published: August 18, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.18033

Open Access: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the CC-BY License. © 2020 Mishra V et al. JAMA Network Open.

Corresponding Author: Joseph P. Dexter, PhD, Neukom Institute for Computational Science, Dartmouth College, 27 N Main St, Hanover, NH 03755 (joseph.p.dexter@dartmouth.edu).

Author Contributions: Drs Mishra and Dexter had full access to all of the data in the study and take responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.

Concept and design: Both authors.

Acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data: Both authors.

Drafting of the manuscript: Both authors.

Critical revision of the manuscript for important intellectual content: Both authors.

Statistical analysis: Both authors.

Obtained funding: Dexter.

Supervision: Dexter.

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: Dr Dexter reported receiving grants from the American Council of Learned Societies and from the Neukom Institute for Computational Science during the conduct of the study. No other disclosures were reported.

Funding/Support: This work was supported by a Digital Extension Grant from the American Council of Learned Societies and a Neukom Fellowship.

Role of the Funder/Sponsor: The funders had no role in the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of the data; preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript; and decision to submit the manuscript for publication.

Additional Contributions: Pramit Chaudhuri, PhD (University of Texas at Austin), provided helpful discussions and comments on the manuscript, and Anish Chattopadhyay (AIIMS Patna), Cuiwei Guo, MBA (Northeastern University), and Vasudha Mishra (AIIMS Patna) assisted with data collection and curation. None of these individuals received compensation for this work.

References
1.
Paakkari  L , Okan  O .  COVID-19: health literacy is an underestimated problem.   Lancet Public Health. 2020;5(5):e249-e250. doi:10.1016/S2468-2667(20)30086-4PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
2.
Badarudeen  S , Sabharwal  S .  Assessing readability of patient education materials: current role in orthopaedics.   Clin Orthop Relat Res. 2010;468(10):2572-2580. doi:10.1007/s11999-010-1380-yPubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
3.
Jin  T , Lu  X , Ni  J.   Syntactic complexity in adapted teaching materials: differences among grade levels and implications for benchmarking.   The Modern Language Journal. 2020;104(1):192-208. doi:10.1111/modl.12622Google ScholarCrossref
4.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Simply put: a guide for creating easy-to-understand materials. Accessed April 5, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/healthliteracy/pdf/simply_put.pdf
5.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Everyday words for public health communication. Accessed April 5, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/other/pdf/everydaywordsforpublichealthcommunication.pdf
6.
Kressin  NR , Gunn  CM , Battaglia  TA .  Content, readability, and understandability of dense breast notifications by state.   JAMA. 2016;315(16):1786-1788. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.1712PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
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