Your New Friend SAM


We’ve posted before about how writing in plain language leads to readability — and that readability measures alone can’t tell you the effectiveness of a health communication material.

But there are tools that can get you a lot closer to creating health education products that will work for your target audience. Earlier this month, we discussed the CDC Clear Communication Index. Today, we discuss another favorite: The Suitability Assessment of Materials, or the SAM. (Go to chapter 4, page 41 to get started with the SAM.)

The thing we ❤ about the SAM is that it includes factors that affect readability and factors that affect comprehension. The tool groups these factors into 6 areas:

  • Content
  • Literacy demand
  • Graphics
  • Layout and type
  • Learning stimulation and motivation
  • Cultural appropriateness


Distinct as these factors may be, they all play a role in how useful a material is, so it’s helpful to have them represented together in a single tool. Consider each of the 6 areas as the ingredients you need to combine to create a clear, useful product.

Using the SAM is pretty straightforward. Each of the 22 factors gets a score of 0, 1, or 2. At the end, you get a score that deems your material superior, adequate, or not suitable.

No surprise here, but we recommend revising your materials until they’re superior!

The bottom line: Use the SAM to help you develop better health communication products.


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