Submissions:2016/Health Literacy of Wikipedia

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Assessing Health Literacy: Readability of Health Content on Wikipedia
Healthcare & Science
Academic Peer Review option
Type of submission
Manjot Kaur
E-mail address

How can we better incorporate public health and other social factors, such as poverty, into Wikipedia's health content?

A public health and social factor that greatly impacts the outcomes of an individual’s health is health literacy. It refers to an individual’s ability to understand health information in an effort to make informed decisions. In a survey conducted in 2010, 60% of adults reported that their doctor explained things so they could understand them. This requires us to think about the other 40% of the adult population and the potential negative health outcomes associated with not understanding their doctor. Many of these patients turn to Wikipedia to get information about their health condition. However, the information provided by Wikipedia may not be easily read or understood by the general public. The average American reading level is between 7th-8th grade but the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention recommends that health material be written at the 4th-5th grade reading level. The readability calculator suggested by Wikipedia was used to analyze the reading level of three different articles on the leading causes of death in 2015. The reading levels of the lead section for heart disease, cancer, and chronic lower respiratory disease (specifically COPD) were 11th grade, 10th grade, and 10th grade, respectively. In addition, the readability of the second section for each article was also analyzed and showed a readability of 16th grade, 12th grade, and 10th grade for heart disease, cancer, and chronic lower respiratory disease (specifically COPD), respectively. The reading level, or health literacy level, required to read these articles is clearly above the average American reading level and the CDC&P recommendation. Thus, the health content on Wikipedia requires attention and may need to be marked as being too “technical” for the average reader. Decreasing the health literacy of the health content would aid Wikipedia in effectively reaching a greater number of readers to provide information that is understandable. Since a great number of individuals refer to Wikipedia for accurate health information, it has the potential to be used as a tool for public health communication to raise awareness about important health topics.

Length of presentation
30 minutes
Special schedule requests
Cannot present on Monday, October 10th
Preferred room size
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  1. Blue Rasberry (talk) 13:25, 31 August 2016 (EDT)
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