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Better Doctors, Better Patients, Better DecisionsEnvisioning Health Care 2020$
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Gerd Gigerenzer and J.A. Muir Gray

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780262016032

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262016032.001.0001

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When Misinformed Patients Try to Make Informed Health Decisions

When Misinformed Patients Try to Make Informed Health Decisions

Chapter:
(p.29) 2 When Misinformed Patients Try to Make Informed Health Decisions
Source:
Better Doctors, Better Patients, Better Decisions
Author(s):

Wolfgang Gaissmaier

Gerd Gigerenzer

Publisher:
The MIT Press
DOI:10.7551/mitpress/9780262016032.003.0002

Statistical illiteracy in health—the inability to understand health statistics—is widespread among the general public. Many people find it hard to accept uncertainty in the first place and, even if they do, basic numerical information is difficult to understand. The problem is aggravated when the benefits and harms of treatment options must be evaluated or test outcomes understood. Statistical illiteracy results not only from a lack of education but from the nontransparent framing of information that is sometimes unintentional, but which can also be used deliberately to manipulate people. In health care, nontransparent framing of information seems to be the rule rather than the exception. Patients have difficulties finding reliable information—on the Internet, in invitations to screening, medical pamphlets, or media reports—yet this situation can be corrected. Statistical thinking must be taught to the public, and health care workers and journalists must be trained in transparent framing. Knowing what questions to ask, what information is missing, and how to translate nontransparent statistics into transparent ones would empower an educated citizenry to reject attempts to persuade rather than inform.

Keywords:   Strüngmann Forum Reports, drug facts box, communication strategies, false positives, health care, numeracy, risk communication, statistical literacy

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