UMMS Affiliation

Lamar Soutter Library; Department of Psychiatry; Systems and Psychosocial Advances Research Center

Publication Date


Document Type



Health Communication | Health Information Technology | Information Literacy | Library and Information Science | Mental Disorders | Public Health Education and Promotion


Objectives: A health literacy focused web site review survey was designed as an initial step in a multi-institutional project to build a website for persons with serious mental illness to help them better understand issues relating to their physical health. This presentation will describe the design, testing, implementation and results of this survey tool.

Methods: The literature shows that persons with serious mental illness (SMI) approach the use of online health information differently than the general population. In 2015, the University of Massachusetts, in collaboration with other academic medical institutions, received a grant to build a new website for persons with SMI that will teach them how to find high quality online health information and will specifically guide them to information about their physical health. As a first step, the project team created a health literacy based survey tool to evaluate current health websites for their utility with an SMI audience. The survey was designed using and building upon an existing validated instrument. It was administered to experts on mental and physical disease. Results will be used to determine quality indicators of the new site and to selected sites to which it will link.

Results: 13 reviewers were identified to complete the survey. Four of the identified participants did not complete the task and others were identified to take their places. Ten participants ultimately completed the surveys. Participants were asked to review between four and five websites focusing on four different topics – cardiovascular health, diabetes, obesity and smoking – all comorbidities with prevalence in the SMI community. The websites were chosen based on Google searches that were performed using examples of layperson searches observed in preliminary focus group activities. The top five non-advertiser-supported sites were included. The survey consisted of 61 questions. The questions were developed using existing open access survey tools (e.g., the DISCERN instrument) and findings on website usage by people with SMI that were discovered in the existing literature. Questions focused on format, navigation, usability and credibility of the sites. Questions were also asked about any etiologic, diagnostic, therapeutic or prognostic information contained in the sites. 65 responses were received.

Conclusion: Results of the survey demonstrated a sampling of health websites that met the criteria for effective use with an SMI population. The authors believe that this survey could also be adapted and used as a general comprehensive health website evaluation tool. It will be made available as an open access document.


Website Evaluation, Website Quality, Mental Health Information Literacy

Rights and Permissions

Copyright the Author(s)

DOI of Published Version



Levin LL, Kostova Z, Nicholson J, Biebel K, Martin ER. (2017) Health-Related Website Usage by Persons with Serious Mental Illness: Design and Use of a Heath Literacy Survey Tool. Poster presented at the Medical Library Association conference, May 30, 2017, Seattle, WA.

Journal/Book/Conference Title

2017 Medical Library Association conference

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.