Making numbers matter: present and future research in risk communication

Am J Health Behav. Sep-Oct 2007;31 Suppl 1:S47-56. doi: 10.5555/ajhb.2007.31.supp.S47.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Decision Making*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Health Services*
  • Humans