7 Strategies to Enhance Numeracy Skills

National Academy of Medicine


Individuals make decisions about health and well-being every day. Many of those decisions involve using and understanding numbers, and most of the decisions are made quickly, at home or at work, as a person goes about a daily routine. Even with adequate time, many people lack the skills to make good use of numerical information to help them make informed decisions. Health professionals and health systems also often communicate numerical information poorly, increasing the challenge.This paper aims to provide guiding principles for communicating numbers in a clear, simple way.


Making Health Communication Programs Work

National Cancer Institute


This publication discusses Stages of Health Communication Process. (1) Planning and Strategy Development, (2) Developing and Pretesting Concepts, Messages, and Materials, (3) Implementing the Program, (4) Assessing Effectiveness and Making Refinements. The planning steps in this book can help make any communication program work, regardless of size, topic, geographic span, intended audience, or budget.

National Institute of Health


The National Institute of Health provides resources on a variety of health topics. With respect to Cancer, topics include, General Information for consumers and health professionals, Tips, Research Spotlights, Scientific Literature, Clinical Practice Guidelines, and resources in Spanish. NIH also has links to other sites including Medline Plus and the National Cancer Institute.

Cancer Control

Massachusetts Health Promotion Clearinghouse


Resources include posters, brochures, booklets, and guides for cancer control. The Cancer Survivors Wellness Guide empowers patients to take control of their care and well-being through inspirational stories of cancer survivors. The Can we talk Cervical and Breast Cancer Screening posters and brochures encourage women to speak with their doctor about screening, HPV, Pap tests, and more. Additional resources are the Test Yourself for Colon Cancer at Home poster and brochure and the Guide to Colon Cancer Screening booklet. Some resources are available in Portuguese, Vietnamese, and Spanish.

Easy Reading for Patients: Dealing with Side Effects of Cancer Treatment

American Cancer Society


The American Cancer Society provides easy to read fliers and handouts that can be printed and distributed to cancer patients and caregivers with low health literacy or limited English proficiency. They offer quick information on a variety of cancer topics including: Cancer Pain, Chemo Brain, Distress, Diarrhea, Fatigue, Mouth Sores, Nausea and Vomiting, Skin Changes, Sleep Problems, When Cancer Comes Back, and Being a Caregiver. Information is available in Spanish and several other languages.

Measures of Cancer Health Literacy and Identification of Patients with Limited Cancer Health Literacy

Journal of Health Communication, Authored by Dumenci et al


This study was designed to develop a psychometrically sound instrument designed to measure cancer health literacy along a continuum (CHLT-30), to develop another instrument designed to determine whether a patient has limited cancer health literacy (CHLT-6), and to estimate the prevalence of limited cancer health literacy. Overall, the results supported the conclusion that the CHLT-30 accurately measures cancer health literacy along a continuum and that the CHLT-6 efficiently identifies patients with limited cancer health literacy with high accuracy.

Using Effective Provider-Patient Communication to Improve Cancer Screening Among Low Literacy Patients

Tulane University School of Medicine


This study was designed to help primary care physicians use effective cancer risk communication and shared decision-making skills to improve patients’ adherence to preventive health measures such as cancer screenings. Limited health literacy develops with improper understanding and knowledge about health risks and susceptibility. Eighteen primary care physicians from five safety-net clinics in New Orleans, LA participated in a cluster randomized control trial to train physicians to effectively counsel patients with limited health literacy. The long-term objective of the trial is to assess whether change in physicians’ communication behavior is associated with patients’ receipt of age-and gender appropriate breast, cervical and colorectal cancer screenings.