Know Your Chances


This resource has been evaluated rigorously

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Format: Texts
Language/s: English
Resource Link: View the Text
Short Description:

This book has been shown in two randomized trials to improve peoples' understanding of risk in the context of health care choices.

Key Concepts addressed:


The goal of this book is to help you better understand health information by teaching you about the numbers behind the messages—the medical statistics on which the claims are based. The book will also familiarize you with risk charts, which are designed to help you put your health concerns in perspective. By learning to understand the numbers and knowing what questions to ask, you’ll be able to see through the hype and find the credible information—if any—that remains.

Copyright © 2008, The Regents of the University of California.

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Every day we are faced with news stories, ads, and public service announcements that describe health threats and suggest ways we can protect ourselves. It’s impossible to watch television, open a magazine, read a newspaper, or go online without being bombarded by messages about the dangers we face.

Many of the messages are intended to be scary, warning us that we are surrounded by danger and hinting that everything we do or neglect to do brings us one step closer to cancer, heart disease, and death. Other messages are intended to be full of hope, reassuring us that technological miracles and breakthrough drugs can save us all. And many messages do both: they use fear to make us feel vulnerable and then provide some hope by telling us what we can do (or buy) to lower our risk. In addition, as you may suspect, a great many of these messages are wildly exaggerated: many of the risks we hear about are really not so big, and the benefits of many of the miraculous breakthroughs are often pretty small.

As a result, we are often left misinformed and confused. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Evaluation details

This resource has been formally evaluated in two randomised controlled trials, with each trial testing knowledge of participants from different socioeconomic backgrounds. Knowledge of the content was assessed before and after using pre- and post-testing, and results showed that reading the book had a positive effect on peoples’ knowledge and ability to answer questions.

Find the evaluation here:

Woloshin S, Schwartz L, Welch G H. The effectiveness of a primer to help people understanding risk: two randomised trials in distinct populations. Ann Intern Med ; 146:256-265.