The Truth is Powerful
Communicating Statistics on the Health Effects of Climate Change
Health care professionals act as science communicators when they translate complex statistics to inform their patients about medical issues and motivate behavior change to improve health. Traditionally, the focus of such discussions has ranged from medication side effects to rationales for cancer screening. But communications involving statistics can be challenging, as the Covid-19 pandemic has shown. Although solving communication problems alone won’t always lead to behavior change — especially among skeptics — evidence shows that people are more likely to understand and be motivated by statistics if communicators present them thoughtfully and strategically. 1,2
We believe that some foundational behavioral-science principles can enable health professionals to use statistics in ways that inform and promote action rather than confuse or dissuade. Though these lessons are broadly applicable, they are especially relevant to the current need to swiftly and effectively communicate the health and equity implications of climate change to patients and the public in order to protect health and motivate individual and collective action.
Providing numerical data is important: studies reveal that providing statistics can help earn people’s trust and motivate them to engage in healthier behavior; many people also find numerical data useful. 1 Moreover, hearing a message from a […]