Date of Award

Summer 8-11-2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Middle-Secondary Education and Instructional Technology

First Advisor

Lisa Martin-Hansen, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Mary P. Deming, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Joyce E. Many, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Lisa Belcher, Ph.D.


This study analyses warehoused data collected by Georgia State University and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (GSU/CDC) researchers after developing an HIV testing message for urban adults with low functional health literacy. It expands previous work by examining data collected when 202 primarily African-American homeless clients of an urban community based organization (CBO) reviewed both the low literacy brochure (Wallace et. al., 2006) and a standard HIV brochure (Georgia Department of Human Resources, 1997). Participants’ health literacy was assessed using 2 measures; the Rapid Estimate of Adult Literacy in Medicine or REALM (Davis, Crouch, Long & Green) and the Test of Functional Health Literacy Assessment or TOFHLA (Nurss, Parker & Baker, 2001). HIV risk was determined using an interview questionnaire developed by the research group (Belcher, Deming, Hunter & Wallace, 2005) which allowed participants to self-report recent alcohol and drug use, sexual behavior, sexually transmitted disease (STD) history and exposure to abuse and sexual coercion. Open-ended response questions regarding readability, understanding, main message, and importance for each brochure provided the qualitative data.This analysis confirms previous work showing accessibility, readability, cultural sensitivity and user-friendly formatting are important when attempting to engage at-risk adults with varying levels of functional health literacy in an HIV testing message. The visual aspects of the brochure can be essential in capturing the reader’s attention and should be relevant to the target audience (Wallace, Deming, Hunter, Belcher & Choi, 2006). Mono-colored graphics may be perceived as dated and irrelevant or worse yet, threatening to some readers. Whenever possible culturally appropriate color photos of people depicting relevant content should replace excess text and difficult medical terms should be eliminated. Wording on the cover and within the brochure should be used to focus the reader on a single main message.This data also shows that many participants considered the quantity of information just as important. For reasons not elucidated here, many respondents equated quantity of information with message quality. Based on these results it is important to further clarify how much information is enough to maintain legitimacy and the reader’s attention while simultaneously avoiding confusing mixed messages.


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