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Health Numeracy for Better Health: Mathematics and Health Education Working...

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Fields Institute

222 College St.

Toronto, ON M5T 3J1

Canada

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Although the conference venue is a mathematics institute, this is not a mathematics conference.

We plan to mobilize mathematics education researchers and health care professionals to work together, on practical issues related to improving health numeracy education among health care professionals, patients, and their families. Our discussions will be guided by the existing literature on numeracy and adult numeracy, pedagogical experiences of mathematics educators and experts working on health education, as well as the experiences of health care professionals, and those directly involved - the patients.

Health numeracy is defined as “the degree to which individuals have the capacity to access, process, interpret, communicate, and act on numerical, quantitative, graphical, biostatistical, and probabilistic health information needed to make effective health decisions.”

Although there is clear evidence that health numeracy, and numeracy in general, need to be improved, it is less clear exactly which aspects of health numeracy should be targeted for improvement. In an extensive, though informal, search we have come across many online tools that purport to help children, teenagers and adults improve general numeracy and mathematics skills; however, they all focused on computational skills, which are but one aspect of mathematics and of numeracy, and were not targeted to specifically improve health numeracy.

Statistics Canada and Human Resources Skills Canada (HRSDC) co-authored a report in 2003 (https://bit.ly/2zTFvhz) in which they stated that “Numerate behaviour is observed when people manage a situation or solve a problem in a real context [emphasis added]; it involves responding to information about mathematical ideas that may be represented in a range of ways; it requires the activation of a range of enabling knowledge, factors and processes.“

Further aspect is the relation between health literacy and numeracy. According to the report ‘Perspective: The Role of Numeracy in Health Care’ (J. Health. Commun. 2008 Sep; 13(6): 583–595, at https://bit.ly/2IF08kj), numeracy “is an important but understudied component of literacy. Numeracy - related tasks are common in healthcare and include understanding nutrition information, interpreting blood sugar readings and other clinical data, adjusting medications, and understanding probability in risk communication. While literacy and numeracy are strongly correlated [...] many patients [have] adequate reading ability but poor numeracy skills.”

Conference objectives:
1. Bring into focus numeracy as an evolving concept;
2. Promote dialogue around numeracy in various healthcare contexts (home, hospitals, doctor’s offices, learning institutions); and
3. Create a forum to discuss opportunities to improve health numeracy skills (patients, healthcare professionals and educators, clinicians).

It is our hope that we will
1. Contribute to increased awareness of the importance of numeracy in health
2. Promote further collaboration between mathematics educators and health educators, resulting in efforts to improve numeracy skills among health care professionals, patient educators, as well as patients and their families.
3. Stimulate further work on conceptualizing health numeracy and situating it within the wider context of health literacy.

This conference is part of the Health Numeracy Project. For further information and the health numeracy Web App that will be discussed at this conference, please visit the site
http://healthnumeracyproject.com/

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Location

Fields Institute

222 College St.

Toronto, ON M5T 3J1

Canada

View Map

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