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National Academies Press


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Although health literacy is commonly defined as an individual trait, it does not depend on the skills of individuals alone. Health literacy is the product of the interaction between individuals' capacities and the health literacy-related demands and complexities of the health care system. Specifically, the ability to understand, evaluate, and use numbers is important to making informed health care choices.

Health Literacy and Numeracy is the summary of a workshop convened by The Institute of Medicine Roundtable on Health Literacy in July 2013 to discuss topics related to numeracy, including the effects of ill health on cognitive capacity, issues with communication of health information to the public, and communicating numeric information for decision making. This report includes a paper commissioned by the Roundtable, "Numeracy and the Affordable Care Act: Opportunities and Challenges," that discusses research findings about people's numeracy skill levels; the kinds of numeracy skills that are needed to select a health plan, choose treatments, and understand medication instructions; and how providers should communicate with those with low numeracy skills. The paper was featured in the workshop and served as the basis of discussion.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780309299800
Publisher: National Academies Press
Publication date: 08/17/2014
Pages: 164
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.40(d)

Table of Contents

1 Introduction 1

2 Overview of Numeracy 3

What is Numeracy?: It's More Than Mathematics 3

Numeracy and the Affordable Care Act: Opportunities and Challenges 8

Discussion 15

Is Numeracy More Difficult with Poor Health?: Evidence, Experience, and Possibilities 20

Discussion 24

References 25

3 Numeracy Demands, Assumptions, and Challenges for Consumers 29

Overcoming Consumer Barriers to Shopping for Health Insurance 29

Numeracy in Health Care: A Clinician's Perspective 32

Discussion 39

References 45

4 Numeracy Demands, Assumptions, and Challenges for Communicators 47

Numeracy and Health Journalism 47

Issues and Challenges in the Era of Shared Decision Making: Explaining Risk and Uncertainty 52

Discussion 60

References 64

5 Strategies for Effective Communication 67

Examples of Effective Display of Health Plan Information 67

Why Are You Giving Me This Number?: Communicating Quantitative Information for Decision Making 71

Effectively Communicating Medication Instructions 75

Discussion 80

References 89


A Numeracy and the Affordable Care Act: Opportunities and Challenges 91

B Meeting Agenda 137

C Speaker Biosketches 141

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