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Making Numbers Matter: Present and Future Research in Risk Communication

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Objective : To summarize existing research on individual numeracy and methods for presenting risk information to patients.

Methods : We selectively retrieved articles from MEDLINE and the Social Sciences Citation Index.

Results : Many Americans have low numeracy skills, a deficit that impedes effective health care. Approaches to risk communication vary in current practice, but how risks are presented can significantly affect both patients' risk perceptions and their knowledge.

Conclusions : Adhering to some basic principles for presenting risk information to patients can improve understanding. However, different risk-communication methods may be needed for individuals with high versus low levels of numeracy.
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Keywords: decision aids; graphs; informed consent; numeracy; patient education; shared decision making; visual displays

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2007-08-01

More about this publication?
  • The American Journal of Health Behavior seeks to improve the quality of life through multidisciplinary health efforts in fostering a better understanding of the multidimensional nature of both individuals and social systems as they relate to health behaviors.

    The Journal aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the impact of personal attributes, personality characteristics, behavior patterns, social structure, and processes on health maintenance, health restoration, and health improvement; to disseminate knowledge of holistic, multidisciplinary approaches to designing and implementing effective health programs; and to showcase health behavior analysis skills that have been proven to affect health improvement and recovery.

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