Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Mammogram reversal requires science and health literacy

There is no doubt that science will continue to do what it's supposed to do - change as it advances. 
And there is also no doubt that science/medical recommendations will change as this occurs. 

However, there is no doubt that only a very small number of people have the science literacy required to understand and come to a comfortably informed decision about the new mammography guidelines. 

In our  book, Advancing Health Literacy: A Framework for Understanding and Action ( Jossey Bass, 2006), we proposed a new ecological model of health literacy where science literacy is one of the critical 4 domains of health literacy: 

  • ·      familiarity with fundamental scientific concepts, scientific process
  • ·      some understanding of technology & technical complexity, and
  •       understanding of scientific uncertainty and that rapid change in the accepted science is possible and likely. 

Given that less than 20% of the adults in the US are scientifically literate (NSF, Public Understanding of Science, http://www.nsf.gov/sbe/srs/seind93/chap7/doc/7d1a93.htm), how likely is it that this new recommendation is going to be accessible and understood?