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Monday, September 04, 2006

Statistics in Life 5

Entry Five
Today I read an article about low literacy in America. The following statistics were presented:
· 21% of adults had only basic reading and writing skills. 4% couldn't do simple literacy tasks.
· 71% of adults 60 and over had limited reading skills. 68% had difficulty with numbers. 80% had difficulty filling out forms.
· 1 out of 5 people in the US function at the lowest level of literacy (5th grade and below).
This was presented by the USDA in relation to designing effective nutritional communication products. The article also mentioned young adults "are getting more schooling than in the past".
The article left out several things I would like to have seen…especially a frequency distribution table in relation to age group or other characteristics. This is relevant to my area of study since health behavior is influenced by understanding and internalization. If a person is unable to comprehend an educational brochure it does little to influence behavior. At the same time, I don't want to design all educational campaigns at the lowest common denominator (so to speak).
I realize the importance of identifying the correct audience, but in health one message may be designed to attract the most attention and reach the greatest number of people. It is customary to write at the 8th grade level to reach the broadest audience, but if the literacy level is lower among a high risk segment; an 8th grade level would be far to difficult. For example, if persons over 60 havea higher percentage of low literacy than I could plan accordingly. I would also like to know the range of literacy among the population. If young adults are receiving more education than ever, is there a greater disparity among literacy rates or is the amount of education a response to the lower overall rates? These and other questions could be answered by a frequency distribution, correlational studies, and other statistical measures. Personally, I find it a terrifically interesting question so I sent for the reprint of the study itself, and yes, I think there is a great deal to use statistics in regarding literacy and health behavior

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