Improving health risk communication for cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and kidney disease by taking into account people's prior beliefs and cognitive abilities; a mental model approach (WC2009-009)

Improving health risk communication for cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and kidney disease by taking into account people's prior beliefs and cognitive abilities; a mental model approach

Background

Starting date: 19/01/2010

Health risk assessments or health checks are becoming more common, in occupational settings and primary care as well as stand-alone versions on the internet. It is pertinent to evaluate the effectiveness of health risk communications in order to improve the effectiveness.

Based on a person’s risk factors health risk assessment programs calculate an individual’s risk on disease and recommendations are given for e.g. lifestyle change. This risk communication has two purposes: (1) to let people understand their (increased) risk on developing a disease; and (2) to let people accept this information as relevant for them and to motivate behavioral change to reduce this risk. Previous research has not shown them to be very powerful in changing people’s health behavior. One reason for this could be that people have a hard time understanding their risk or misinterpret it because of the presentation of the risk information or cognitive limitations of the recipient. The effectiveness of communicating health risk information depends on the characteristics of the individual concerned as well as the characteristics of the risk information.