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Evaluating readability, understandability, and actionability of online printable patient education materials for cholesterol management: a systematic review


Background — Dyslipidemia management is a cornerstone in cardiovascular disease prevention and relies heavily on patient adherence to lifestyle modifications and medications. Numerous cholesterol patient education materials are available online, but it remains unclear whether these resources are suitable for the majority of North American adults given the prevalence of low health literacy. This review aimed to (1) identify printable cholesterol patient education materials through an online search, and (2) evaluate the readability, understandability, and actionability of each resource to determine its utility in practice.

Methods and Results — We searched the MEDLINE database for peer‐reviewed educational materials and the websites of Canadian and American national health organizations for gray literature. Readability was measured using the Flesch–Kincaid Grade Level, and scores between fifth‐ and sixth‐grade reading levels were considered adequate. Understandability and actionability were scored using the Patient Education Materials Assessment Tool and categorized as superior (>80%), adequate (50%–70%), or inadequate (<50%). Our search yielded 91 results that were screened for eligibility. Among the 22 educational materials included in the study, 15 were identified through MEDLINE, and 7 were from websites. The readability across all materials averaged an 11th‐grade reading level (Flesch–Kincaid Grade Level=11.9±2.59). The mean±SD understandability and actionability scores were 82.8±6.58% and 40.9±28.60%, respectively.

Conclusions — The readability of online cholesterol patient education materials consistently exceeds the health literacy level of the average North American adult. Many resources also inadequately describe action items for individuals to self‐manage their cholesterol, representing an implementation gap in cardiovascular disease prevention.



Bhatt C, Lin E, Ferreira-Legere LE, Jackevicius CA, Ko DT, Lee DS, Schade K, Johnston S, Anderson TJ, Udell JA. J Am Heart Assoc. 2024; 13(8):e030140. Epub 2024 Apr 3.

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