PURPOSE: Written health education materials can only be effective if they can be read, understood, and remembered by patients. The purpose of this article was to review the literature about features that should be incorporated into written health education materials to maximize their effectiveness, identify where there is consensus and debate about which features should be incorporated, and develop recommendations that health professionals can use when reviewing their existing materials and designing new materials. METHOD: Literature review of published research and education articles. RESULTS: There is a large number of features that need to be considered when designing written health education materials so that they are suitable for the target audience and effective. Although there is consensus about the majority of features that should be included, further research is needed to explore the contribution of certain features, such as illustrations, to the effectiveness of written materials and the effect of well-designed written materials on patient outcomes. CONCLUSIONS: Health professionals need to provide their patients with written health education materials that are patient-orientated and designed according to the best practice principles in written health education material design.
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