BOX 4-2
Selected Findings from Sex Matters

Which of the following would you say you use most often as a source of information about health for you:

Have you ever heard this information before:

In addition to the typical chest pain associated with a heart attack, women may suffer from subtle symptoms such as indigestion, abdominal or mid-back pain, nausea or vomiting?

To the best of your recollection, where did you hear this information? (asked only of the 55% who said they had heard it)

 

Doctor

44%

Yes

55%

Newspaper/TV

25%

Magazines

15%

No

44%

Magazines

22%

Newspapers/TV

14%

Don’tknow

1%

Doctor

17%

Friends/family

14%

 

 

Friends/family

15%

Internet

7%

 

 

Don’tknow

10%

Nurses

4%

 

 

Medicaltext

7%

Don’tknow

2%

 

 

Nurses

2%

 

 

 

 

Internet

1%

SOURCE: Benenson Strategy Group (2001).

To understand the full impact of health literacy on America’s health system, we need to understand a wide array of information sources, information needs, information contexts, and communication complexity.

Complexity of Materials

Many materials developed to provide health information fail to take into account the needs of the audiences for these materials. Rudd and colleagues (2000) reviewed studies of patient information materials, and found that disparities between the readability of education materials and patient reading level occurred in ambulatory care settings (Cooley et al., 1995; Davis et al., 1990), substance abuse treatment centers (Davis et al., 1993), and pediatric care settings (Davis et al., 1994). Similar findings are reported for patients with diabetes (Hosey et al., 1990), arthritis (Hill, 1997), and lupus (Hearth-Holmes et al., 1997). These studies found that the reading levels of groups of patients with these chronic diseases fell between grade levels 6 and 10, while the readability of the materials designed for them fell between grade levels 7 and 13.



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