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Am Fam Physician. 2004;69(9):2043

In each issue of AFP, you will find patient information handouts that complement many of the review articles, and most issues also offer a patient information collection on a selected topic. Readers often tear out the patient information handouts and keep them in a file, adding as many as five to 10 handouts from each issue. If you’re not doing this, you might be missing out on a valuable resource. Consider how many patient information handouts are available in this issue alone:

  • Barrett’s Esophagus, page 2120

  • Acne, page 2135

  • Polycythemia Vera, page 2146

  • Chronic Cough, page 2169

  • Collection on vaginal infections (yeast infections, vaginal discharge, bacterial vaginosis), page 2189

Of course, another alternative to storing tearouts of patient information in a file is to download them from the Web as you need them. AFP’s patient information handouts are available online at no cost, along with full text of each issue ( At this time, AFP’s patient information handouts are published online as an archival feature—that is, the handouts remain online in the original format in which they appeared in the journal. AFP handouts often are adapted for use on the consumer-oriented section of the Web site of the American Academy of Family Physicians ( Updated versions of AFP’s handouts may be available at the site, along with other handouts developed by the AAFP. Spanish versions of handouts and other health tools for patients also are available at this Web site.

AFP started the tradition of patient information in the journal nearly 15 years ago. Since then the editorial development processes for these pieces have evolved to reflect a greater understanding of patient literacy and educational needs. AFP strives to provide handouts on a range of topics, offering easily digestible, bite-size pieces of information about prevention, diagnosis, or treatment, rather than attempting dense, comprehensive coverage of general health topics. AFP also offers handouts on topics that might not otherwise have extensive coverage in the lay literature, such as the handout in this issue on polycythemia vera.

The majority of AFP’s patient information handouts are written by the same authors who have submitted the accompanying clinical review article. The handouts go through extensive review and editing by AFP’s medical editors, and they also undergo peer review by family physicians. After that, professional editors work to focus the handouts to the target patient audience and simplify the language to the sixth-grade reading level, which represents the current average reading level among patients. Patient information collections on special topics are developed by one of AFP’s patient information specialists. The “Medicine and Society” in this issue (page 2077) addresses the issue of health literacy among patients and helps clarify the challenges of providing effective patient information.

We would like to know how else AFP can serve your needs for patient information, either in print or online. Please write your suggestions on this issue’s reader feedback card, available in the “Clinical Quiz” section, or send an e-mail (

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