Increasing rates of chronic diseases, such as diabetes, HIV and obesity, require patients to be more involved in their own health care. However, only 12 percent of American adults have proficient health literacy, meaning nearly nine out of 10 adults may lack the skills they need to manage their health, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“When you’re diagnosed with a serious disease, you are vulnerable,” said Gondy Leroy, grant principal investigator and associate professor, MIS. “This is partially due to not understanding all relevant information, a problem we can solve with today’s technology. We need to increase people’s understanding so they’re empowered to make proper decisions about their health care.”
Leroy is heading up a multi-disciplinary research team tasked with increasing health literacy by creating an
. Similar to popular editing software, the tool will provide suggestions for replacing difficult terminology, improving awkward expressions and tuning the flow and structure of the information to make it more understandable for those with little background knowledge on the topic.
The most commonly used tools available today measure the difficulty of medical text using a “readability formula,” according to Leroy. This is supposed to make the text more understandable, but there is little evidence showing this formula helps with rewriting text for improving comprehension and positive health outcomes.
Leroy’s team is working on a more effective tool that will be tested through comprehensive user studies to ensure it increases understanding among patients. It will be available in both English and Spanish, and is slated to be complete by the end of 2019. Although, earlier, less sophisticated versions may be made available sooner.
For more information, visit https://mis.eller.arizona.edu/news-article/14m-grant-will-design-free-online-text-simplifying-tool.