Intended for healthcare professionals


How new fact boxes are explaining medical risk to millions

BMJ 2017; 357 doi: (Published 24 May 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;357:j2460
  1. Gerd Gigerenzer, director1,
  2. Kai Kolpatzik, head2
  1. 1Harding Center for Risk Literacy and Center for Adaptive Behavior and Cognition, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin, Germany
  2. 2Department of Prevention, General Local Health Insurance Fund (AOK-Bundesverband), Berlin, Germany
  3. Correspondence to: G Gigerenzer

Smart “fact boxes” that communicate evidence based information on the benefits and harms of drugs and health screening are being rolled out to millions of people in Europe. Gerd Gigerenzer and Kai Kolpatzik report

An alien investigating healthcare on Earth would be quite puzzled. We spend billions on clinical studies but fail to ensure that patients and physicians are communicated the results transparently.1 Instead they get persuasion, marketing, and, in some countries, misleading direct-to-consumer advertising.23

One tool to bridge this gap is the fact box. Originally designed for medication, it was introduced and tested by US researchers Lisa Schwartz and Steve Woloshin from Dartmouth College. Their studies showed that, unlike consumer drug adverts, which led to largely erroneous opinions, drug fact boxes substantially improved the understanding of the benefits and harms of drugs.4 Their research led to an ultimately doomed attempt in the US Senate to get the Food and Drug Administration to adopt the fact boxes. Action was taken elsewhere, however. Germany’s largest health insurance provider, AOK, serving some 25 million people, …

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