Rethinking Health Numeracy: A Multidisciplinary Literature Review

Jessica S. Ancker, David Kaufman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

214 Scopus citations


The purpose of this review is to organize various published conceptions of health numeracy and to discuss how health numeracy contributes to the productive use of quantitative information for health. We define health numeracy as the individual-level skills needed to understand and use quantitative health information, including basic computation skills, ability to use information in documents and non-text formats such as graphs, and ability to communicate orally. We also identify two other factors affecting whether a consumer can use quantitative health information: design of documents and other information artifacts, and health-care providers' communication skills. We draw upon the distributed cognition perspective to argue that essential ingredients for the productive use of quantitative health information include not only health numeracy but also good provider communication skills, as well as documents and devices that are designed to enhance comprehension and cognition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)713-721
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American Medical Informatics Association
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2007
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics


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