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Health Literacy: Risk communication

Resources for understanding health literacy best practices.

Risk communication

  • Marry words and numbers Emphasize numbers rather than words such as “rare,” “low risk,” or “common.” Best practice is to use both words and numbers
  • Do the math Perform calculations for your patients. Tell them what their risk is for getting a vaccine preventable illness over 10 years rather than have them calculate it
  • Limit numbers Focus on just a few concepts and highlight key information
  • Use everyday words Say, “about half” instead of “49 percent” and round to whole numbers
  • Consider cultural differences Would they prefer U.S. Standard or Metric system
  • Stay consistent Keep denominators and time frames the same when you compare numbers
  • Elaborate by providing estimated numbers. Avoid explaining risks in purely descriptive terms such as “low risk”

Health Literacy Written Materials Principles

When creating, using, or assessing handouts:

  • Use color to create contrast of risks or numbers Use action colors (example: Red, yellow, green)
  • Be visual- Combine numbers, words, and visuals to explain risk People better understand probabilities when presented with words and visuals
  • Choose data display type wisely Remember the why, use the display type that emphasizes the important point:
  • Icon arrays = ratios or risk
  • Pie graphs = ratios
  • Bar graphs = compare numbers
  • Line graph = change over time

 

Health numeracy is the measure which people understand and act on numerical health information to make effective health decisions. Using low numeracy principles to communicate risk are helpful to use for all individuals

 

Health numeracy is the measure which people understand and act on numerical health information to make effective health decisions. Using low numeracy principles for risk communication is helpful for all individuals.

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