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Why Most Parents Can’t Understand Pediatric Radiation Safety Guides

Pediatric radiation safety guidelines are written at far too difficult reading levels for the average parent to understand, according to a study recently published in the American Journal of Roentgenology.

Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Hospital assessed 54 articles on patient safety that were published on websites such as the Society for Pediatric Radiology, RadiologyInfo, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Using the ANOVA (Analysis of Variance) scale, they found that 91 percent of articles were “very difficult,” “difficult,” or “fairly difficult” for the typical parent. On average, the articles were geared for readers who read at a 12 to 14.8 grade level. Only three articles were written below an eighth-grade level, which is what the National Institutes of Health considers to be the average adult reading skill.

“The availability of high-quality, web-based informational materials does not necessarily translate into reader comprehension of those materials,” wrote the researchers. “The most important finding of this study is the low overall readability level of almost all articles pertaining to pediatric radiation safety from all three web sources, with a large proportion of the articles written at or above the college level.”

To increase the readability of the articles, the researchers recommend swapping out certain terminology with more easily understood words, such as “x-ray” instead of “radiography.” They also suggest providing tables and illustrations so that readers are less bogged down with the text, and including guides that feature a point-of-view, which might better engage the reader.

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