Date of Award

Spring 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


Health and Kinesiology

First Advisor

David R. Black

Committee Member 1

Gerald C. Hyner

Committee Member 2

Marifran Mattson


Introduction. Health information is one of the most common searches on the Internet. Literature supports that, in general, health information readily available to Internet consumers is not accurate, lacks plain language for ease of understanding, and does not incorporate behavior-change theoretical frameworks. The purpose of this study was to evaluate each of these components. Method. Three keywords, "physical activity," "exercise," and "fitness," were entered into four popular search engines: Google, Bing, and Yahoo. The first 5 result pages were considered, totaling a sample of 493 websites. After exclusionary criteria, 102 websites were reviewed and analyzed with guidance from ACSM recommendations, federal government plain language criteria guided by President Obama's Plain Writing Act of 2010, and Extended Parallel Process variables. Results. Accuracy was poor, plain language adherence was moderate, and only EPPM variable self-efficacy was well represented. Accuracy varied by keyword, as "exercise" resulted in more accurate websites. Adherence to clear and concise language criteria, also referred to as language ease, varied by keyword. Choosing "physical activity" yielded less websites with low adherence, and "fitness" yielded less websites with moderate/high adherence. Also, language ease varied by website type. Commercial websites yielded more websites with low adherence. Finally, websites with moderate/high accuracy were more likely to yield websites incorporating efficacy and language ease criteria.

Discussion. It is encouraging that the majority of accurate websites were able to incorporate both efficacy and plain language criteria, specifically those representing clear and concise language as language ease. However, a great deal of attention should be paid to the inaccuracy of physical activity recommendations, moderate plain language levels, and incomplete inclusion of behavior change theoretical frameworks that are readily available to Internet consumers.