You’re at risk; how health risk information can be made more meaningful for consumers (WC2011-086 )


Starting date: 01/09/2012


Due to medical information technology as well as a liberal healthcare policy trend, people in Western countries are increasingly confronted with information about lifestyle-related health risks. Consumers can use various online health checks to assess their lifestyle and lifestyle- related disease risks, and learn about ways to reduce risks. In the Netherlands, a focus on self management and patient empowerment has led to a prevention approach in which consumers are expected to take advantage of such information and make informed health decisions. In this respect, the most important initiative is the ‘PreventieConsult’ founded by three patient foundations (Diabetes Research Foundation, Heart Foundation, Kidney Foundation), NIPED, and two GP associations (Dutch College of General Practitioners and National General Practitioners Association). This initiative focusses on cardio-metabolic health risk. Cardio-metabolic diseases like type 2 diabetes mellitus, cardio-vascular diseases and chronic kidney disease contribute heavily to disease burden while the risks can be considerably reduced by adoption of a healthy lifestyle and appropriate medication.

The online ‘PreventieConsult’ consists of two interrelated modules: a quantitative risk estimation based on people’s answers, and educational information about the essential risk factors and risk reduction strategies ( and a longer lifestyle assessment with more tailored lifestyle advice (

As people experience considerable difficulties with processing abstract health risk information, information providers have tried to make the information consumer-friendly (e.g., by using pictures) and to help people with processing the numbers (e.g., by displaying both percentages and colored bars). However, how consumers process current materials and whether they perceive the information in the way thought out by experts has not been investigated.