Intended for healthcare professionals


Sarah Catherine Betty Walker

BMJ 2002; 325 doi: (Published 14 December 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;325:1426
  1. Cameron Stark, consultant in public health medicine (
  1. Highland NHS Board, and honorary senior lecturer Highlands and Islands Health Research Institute, Inverness

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Gerd Gigerenzer

Allen Lane, £14.99, pp 310

ISBN 0 713 99512 2


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In healthcare, information often comes in the form of numbers. Professionals are expected to make good quality judgments based on this evidence. Patients are often assumed to be less numerate than professionals and to have less ability to interpret healthcare evidence. As a result, many healthcare workers feel that one of their roles is to help people to understand the choices open to them by acting as interpreters of the evidence, particularly amid uncertainty.

There is some evidence to support the idea that the public has problems understanding risk. Research dating back to the 1960s has found that professionals' ideas of risk are often different from those of lay people. The public tends to overestimate the frequency of uncommon health risks and to underestimate the frequency of common risks. Many lay …

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