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COVID-19 info from agencies may be too complex for general public, researchers say

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Posted at 3:16 PM, Aug 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-20 09:51:51-04

There are new concerns about people's ability to understand information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dartmouth College researchers found many health agencies are publishing coronavirus information at a 10th grade reading level.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the American Medical Association and National Institutes of Health say information should not be published at more than an 8th grade reading level.

Researchers say it could lead to more people missing information.

“If high quality information, in terms of content, like with the CDC, WHO and other official organizations put out, if that is difficult to access, difficult to understand, then that does create a potential or an incentive for looking at less trustworthy sources,” said Joseph Dexter, Neukom Fellow at Dartmouth College.

Researchers say health agencies need to use short and direct sentences when writing health information. They should also use short paragraphs, avoiding jargon and technical terms.

It's also important to think about how information can be presented visually on a screen.

Right now, it's not required that states follow these guidelines, but it is highly recommended.