Purpose: We examined the quality and readability of English-language Internet information about stuttering and evaluated the results considering recommendations by experts in health literacy.
Method: A search of Internet websites containing information about stuttering was conducted. Three key words (i.e., stuttering, stammering, speech disfluency) were entered into five country-specific versions of the most commonly used Internet search engine. A total of 79 websites were assessed. Their origin (commercial, non-profit, government, personal or university), quality [Health On the Net (HON) certification and DISCERN scores], and readability [Flesch Reading Ease (FRE) score, Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Formula (F-KGL), and Simple Measure of Gobbledygook (SMOG)] were assessed.
Results: Of the 79 websites, 38% were of commercial, 42% were of nonprofit organization, 15% were of government and 5% were of university origins, respectively. Only 13% had obtained HON certification and the mean DISCERN scores was 3.10 in a 5-point scale. The mean reading grade levels were at 13th and 14th grade and 100% of the websites exceeded the recommended 5th to 6th reading grade level for health information.
Conclusions: The quality of Internet-based health information about the treatment of stuttering is generally adequate, but actual usability of the sites examined in this study may be limited due to poor readability levels. This is problematic in persons with poor literacy skills. Since the Internet can be readily accessed as a valuable consumer information resource, speech-language pathologists and other healthcare professionals have an opportunity to direct consumers to websites that provide readable information of good quality.