A ‘Connections Innovation grant’ awarded to Biotext by the Australian Government Department of Industry, Innovation and Science will see new ground broken in readability standards for health content in Australia.
It’s important that information about health is as clear and understandable as possible.
But ‘clear and understandable’ might mean different things to different audiences.
Biotext is joining forces with Macquarie University’s Department of Linguistics and software company VisibleThread to research the ‘readability’ standards used in government health information, to ensure that the standards meet the needs of all audiences.
‘At the moment, the Australian Government Department of Health aims to achieve a readability level of US Grade 8. This means that the information is written so that someone in Grade 8 could read and understand it’, Biotext Managing Director Dr Richard Stanford says.
‘In our work, we have found that readability is not just about reading level, but also about the connection between the author and the audience, and the effectiveness of the structure, language and flow of information.’
In the project, Biotext researchers and university staff will test and set reading level grades for different audiences, including general audiences and health professionals. The Department of Health uses VisibleThread software to assess the readability of health content on its website. Over 7 months, the project will develop readability checking standards for the software, informed by research and benchmarks from relevant health databases and indexes.
‘Our health writing and editing experts will join with Macquarie University’s linguistics experts, and the team at VisibleThread, to set user-centred readability standards for government health information, and develop a reliable way to check this content’, Dr Stanford says.
‘This will help to make sure that health information produced by government and on government websites is both clear and useful to the audience it is trying to reach. It will also be useful for other users, such as hospitals, to make sure the information they provide to patients or staff is as clear as possible.’