Rethinking Health Numeracy: A Multidisciplinary Literature Review Review uri icon


MeSH Major

  • Comprehension
  • Mathematics
  • Statistics as Topic


  • 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.

publication date

  • November 2007



  • Review



  • eng

PubMed Central ID

  • PMC2213486

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1197/jamia.M2464

PubMed ID

  • 17712082

Additional Document Info

start page

  • 713

end page

  • 21


  • 14


  • 6