Reading ability varies widely among Australians. One in four Australians was born overseas, many of them in non-English-speaking countries. Different levels of education and different environments mean that readers will have varying levels of proficiency and familiarity with different words and types of texts. All these affect their ability to read health information.
Our research looked at 13 public health websites. Testing showed that these were rated at grade 7.1 to 10.9 by Flesch–Kincaid checkers and 9.9 to 13.2 by SMOG checkers. They did not achieve the DTA aim of year 7 for public information and around 45% of Australians would struggle to interpret at least some of the information, based on literacy surveys.
The needs of Australian health practitioners should also be considered. Many professionals will also have English as a second language – in 2016, the proportion of overseas-trained doctors was 33% overall, and 41% in rural and remote areas. Many practitioners also work across specialisations, all of which have individual terminologies which can be challenging.
Thinking about the audience will help to ensure Australian health content meets their needs.