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Fam Med. 2004 Sep;36(8):571-4.

American Academy of Family Physicians patient education materials: can patients read them?

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Department of Family Medicine, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, 37920, USA.



A large proportion of US adults struggle with limited literacy skills, which affect their ability to fully function in health care settings. This study evaluated the readability of English language American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) patient education materials.


A random sample of 171 AAFP patient education materials was selected from a list of 518 health topics available via the Internet. The SMOG grade formula was used to measure readability of the written patient education materials.


The mean SMOG grade level of AAFP patient education materials was 9.43 +/- 1.31 (range=6-12). This is higher than the average reading skills of US adults.


Our results support and extend the findings of other readability studies across many medical specialties, all of which find that patient education materials are written at a difficulty level that is too high. The AAFP and individual family physicians should strive to improve communication with their patients by providing educational materials that are written at an appropriate reading level.

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