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The Birth of the Contextual Health Education Readability Score in an Examination of Online Influenza Patient Education Materials.

  • Irfan, Bilal1
  • Yasin, Ihsaan2
  • Yaqoob, Aneela3
  • 1 Microbiology and Immunology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA.
  • 2 Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA.
  • 3 Infectious Diseases, Beaumont Hospital, Taylor, USA.
Published Article
Cureus, Inc.
Publication Date
Mar 01, 2024
DOI: 10.7759/cureus.56715
PMID: 38650807


Introduction Influenza is a major global health concern, with its rapid spread and mutation rate posing significant challenges in public health education and communication. Effective patient education materials (PEMs) are crucial for informed decision-making and improved health outcomes. This study evaluates the efficacy of online influenza PEMs using traditional readability tools and introduces the Contextual Health Education Readability Score (CHERS) to address the limitations of existing methods that do not capture the diverse array of visual and thematic means displayed. Materials and methods A comprehensive search was conducted to select relevant online influenza PEMs. This involved looking through Google's first two pages of results sorted by relevance, for a total of 20 results. These materials were evaluated using established readability tools (e.g., Flesch Reading Ease, Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level) and the Patient Education Materials Assessment Tool (PEMAT) for understandability and actionability. The study also involved the creation of CHERS, integrating factors such as semantic complexity, cultural relevance, and visual aid effectiveness. The development of CHERS included weighting each component based on its impact on readability and comprehension. Results The traditional readability tools demonstrated significant variability in the readability of the selected materials. The PEMAT analysis revealed general trends toward clarity in purpose and use of everyday language but indicated a need for improvement in summaries and visual aids. The CHERS formula was calculated as follows: CHERS = (0.4 × Average Sentence Length) + (0.3 × Average Syllables per Word) + (0.15 × Semantic Complexity Score) + (0.1 × Cultural Relevance Score) + (0.05 × Visual Aid Effectiveness Score), integrating multiple dimensions beyond traditional readability metrics. Discussion The study highlighted the limitations of traditional readability tools in assessing the complexity and cultural relevance of health information. The introduction of CHERS addressed these gaps by incorporating additional dimensions crucial for understanding in a healthcare context. The recommendations provided for creating effective influenza PEMs focused on language simplicity, cultural sensitivity, and actionability. This may enable further research into evaluating current PEMs and clarifying means of creating more effective content in the future. Conclusions The study underscores the need for comprehensive readability assessments in PEMs. The creation of CHERS marks a significant advancement in this field, providing a more holistic approach to evaluating health literacy materials. Its application could lead to the development of more inclusive and effective educational content, thereby improving public health outcomes and reducing the global burden of influenza. Future research should focus on further validating CHERS and exploring its applicability to other health conditions. Copyright © 2024, Irfan et al.

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