“Superbugs” Require Super High Health Literacy


Last week I read the always informative NYT article on antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” through the lens of – how does a low health literate person make meaning from this. I call this doing a Health Literacy Load Analysis – Identify the underlying concepts that the text/message assumes the reader has some working knowledge of. And then I work on what a good rewrite for low health literacy readers should look like.
Here are the First 3 Paragraphs: [12th grade Flesch Kincaid performed on a Mac]
¶ 1     Government officials, drug companies and medical experts, faced with outbreaks of antibiotic-resistant “superbugs,” are pushing to speed up the approval of new antibiotics, a move that is raising safety concerns among some critics.
¶ 2    The need for new antibiotics is so urgent, supporters of an overhaul say, that lengthy studies involving hundreds or thousands of patients should be waived in favor of directly testing such drugs in very sick patients. Influential lawmakers have said they are prepared to support legislation that allows for faster testing.
¶ 3    The Health and Human Services Department last month announced an agreement under which it will pay $40 million to a major drug maker, GlaxoSmithKline, to help it develop medications to combat antibiotic resistance and biological agents that terrorists might use. Under the plan, the federal government could give the drug company as much as $200 million over the next five years.
Health Literacy Load Analysis of paragraph 1.
¶ 1 –
1.     Function of antibiotics: Antibiotics are medicines that treat infections  ( not viral infections)
2.     Antibiotic Resistance: Some antibiotics don’t work any more because there are new, different, strong infections.
3.     Superbugs: Some of the new infections that don’t go away anymore with regular antibiotics are called “superbugs”.  They are not real bugs. We call them super bugs because they are stronger than the antibiotics.  This means it is very hard or sometimes impossible to cure these infections.
4.     Governmental Oversight/Public Safety: The government has to approve new drugs. It must make sure that all new drugs are safe for people and work the way they are supposed to.  It can take a very long time for companies to develop new drugs and a long time for the government to approve new drugs.
 Now what?
How do we revise this information for low health literate readers without losing all the substance? 

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