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3 Tips to Create Evidence-based Health Literacy Education Programs

Are you creating a health literacy education program for patients or providers? Then this article is for you. It tells how to make sure the program content is based on high-quality scientific evidence.

We’ll discuss three tips for creating evidence-based programs:

  1. Use peer-reviewed articles.
  2. Assess website and social media content.
  3. Work with a subject matter expert. 

Tip 1: Use peer-reviewed articles

It’s a good idea to use peer-reviewed articles. These are reviewed by experts in the field. The review process selects for high-quality evidence.

Use many articles

To broaden your evidence base, try to use a large number of peer-reviewed articles. Look for bibliographies, environmental scans, literature reviews, and systematic reviews—or do your own.

Use recent articles

Make sure the peer-reviewed articles are up to date. Choose articles from the last 5 years or so.

Use PubMed

In addition, consider using PubMed to find peer-reviewed articles. This searchable database is free and open to the public. It has more than 35 million citations for biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books. It’s maintained by the National Library of Medicine’s National Center for Biotechnology Information. This guide gives helpful tips for using PubMed.


Tip 2: Assess website and social media content

As you create your health literacy education program, it’s fine to use content from websites and social media. But assess this content to make sure it’s based on high-quality evidence.

First find the content’s original source. Then assess the source’s website address, purpose, evidence, reviewer, and date.

Assess the website address

Look at the last three letters of the website address. This table shows the endings for government, university, nonprofit, and commercial website addresses.

Website owner

Website address ending

Government

.gov

University

.edu

Nonprofit

.org

Commercial

.com or .org

You can usually trust health content from government (.gov) and university (.edu) websites. Many nonprofit groups also provide good content. But both nonprofit and commercial entities may have a .org website address. So read through .org websites carefully to see who owns them.

Assess the purpose

Go to the “About This Site” page, which tells the purpose of the website. Make sure its purpose is to provide education or awareness. If its purpose is to promote a product or service, the content on the site may not be accurate.

Assess the evidence

Make sure the website offers solid evidence for any health facts or figures it uses. For instance, it might cite peer-reviewed articles.

Assess the reviewer

The website should state who reviewed the content it presents. It should also list the person’s medical credentials, such as medical doctor (MD), registered nurse (RN), and registered dietitian (RD).

Assess the date

Finally, the website should state when its content was last updated or reviewed. Make sure this date is recent.

(Note: To learn more about assessing content from websites and social media, see this guidance from the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements.)


Tip 3: Work with a subject matter expert

As you create your health literacy education program, consider working with a subject matter expert (SME). That’s someone who knows a lot about the topic of your program.

SMEs can suggest evidence-based sources for the program. Plus, they can review program materials at each stage of development to make sure the content is accurate and up to date.


Summary

We’ve discussed how to create evidence-based health literacy education programs. Here’s a quick recap.

Tip 1: Use peer-reviewed articles
  • Use many articles.
  • Use recent articles.
  • Use PubMed.

Tip 2: Assess website and social media content

First, find the content’s original source. Then assess the following:

  • Website address
  • Purpose
  • Evidence
  • Reviewer
  • Date

Tip 3: Work with a subject matter expert 

As you create your health literacy education program, consider working with a subject matter expert.



We extend our sincere gratitude to 
Sophia Wong, for her invaluable peer review and expert feedback, which significantly contributed to the enhancement of this article.



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