Background: Many women are unaware of risk factors for and consequences of osteoporosis. Hence, patient education is an essential step in preventing and managing osteoporosis. Unfortunately, numerous studies have demonstrated a mismatch between the reading difficulty of typical patient education materials and the reading ability of many American adults. Methods: We examined the readability and quality of web-based information on osteoporosis using the Suitability Assessment of Materials (SAM) and DISCERN instruments. The three most widely used Internet search engines, Google, Yahoo, and MSN, were selected based on popularity according to Nielsen/Net Ratings. The search term osteoporosis was entered to generate the first 30 websites listed by each of the three search engines. Several websites appeared on all three search engines; we identified 27 unique websites. Results: Overall, 51.9% of materials were rated by the SAM as not suitable. Most materials scored poorly for their reading level (82.6% were rated not suitable), with an average reading level at grade 11.5 ± 2.8. The mean DISCERN score for overall description of treatment options was 35.7 ± 18.0, indicating inadequate quality. Most materials had low quality in a number of indicators, including accuracy and biased presentation of information. Conclusions: Web-based osteoporosis information is written above the reading ability of most American adults, and much of it lacks adequate quality.
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