Is the Authoritative Online COVID-19 Consumer Health Information Intelligible to Adults of the General Public?: A COVID-19 Information Analysis


Objective: To investigate whether the authoritative COVID-19 consumer health information provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States (U.S.) and the World Health Organization (WHO) is at low readability levels (i.e., at or below a sixth-grade reading level). Major public health organizations, such as these have quickly distributed authoritative COVID-19 health information on the Internet during the pandemic. However, scant research has assessed whether the information disseminated by these two major public health organizations enables access by adults from the general public. This study examines the Flesch-Kincaid grade levels of the COVID-19 health information in English distributed by the CDC and the WHO. Design: The study is guided by communication and information science frameworks. It examines the reading level of the resources to see if they are compatible with the guidelines of the American Medical Association for patient education materials. Methods/setting: The methodology used centered on content and document analyses. The samples analyzed were identified through accessing the COVID-19 health information shared on the websites of the public library systems of the twenty largest cities in the U.S. Key results: The results show that the documents reviewed in the study are not compatible with the sixth-grade reading level recommended by the American Medical Association for patient education materials.

Publication Title

Journal of Consumer Health on the Internet