Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 26, Issue 7, pp 705–711

The Meaning of Numbers in Health: Exploring Health Numeracy in a Mexican-American Population

  • Marilyn M. Schapira
  • Kathlyn E. Fletcher
  • Pamela S. Ganschow
  • Cindy M. Walker
  • Bruce Tyler
  • Sam Del Pozo
  • Carrie Schauer
  • Elizabeth A. Jacobs
Original Research

DOI: 10.1007/s11606-011-1645-5

Cite this article as:
Schapira, M.M., Fletcher, K.E., Ganschow, P.S. et al. J GEN INTERN MED (2011) 26: 705. doi:10.1007/s11606-011-1645-5

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND

Health numeracy can be defined as the ability to use numeric information in the context of health. The interpretation and application of numbers in health may vary across cultural groups.

OBJECTIVE

To explore the construct of health numeracy among persons who identify as Mexican American.

DESIGN

Qualitative focus group study. Groups were stratified by preferred language and level of education. Audio-recordings were transcribed and Spanish groups (n = 3) translated to English. An analysis was conducted using principles of grounded theory.

PARTICIPANTS

A purposeful sample of participants from clinical and community sites in the Milwaukee and Chicago metropolitan areas.

MAIN MEASURES

A theoretical framework of health numeracy was developed based upon categories and major themes that emerged from the analysis.

KEY RESULTS

Six focus groups were conducted with 50 participants. Initial agreement in coding was 59–67% with 100% reached after reconciliation by the coding team. Three major themes emerged: 1) numeracy skills are applied to a broad range of communication and decision making tasks in health, 2) affective and cognitive responses to numeric information influence use of numbers in the health setting, and 3) there exists a strong desire to understand the meaning behind numbers used in health. The findings informed a theoretical framework of health numeracy.

CONCLUSIONS

Numbers are important across a range of skills and applications in health in a sample of an urban Mexican-American population. This study expands previous work that strives to understand the application of numeric skills to medical decision making and health behaviors.

KEY WORDS

health numeracy cross-cultural research focus groups Hispanic 

Supplementary material

11606_2011_1645_MOESM1_ESM.doc (39 kb)
Appendix A(DOC 39 kb)
11606_2011_1645_MOESM2_ESM.doc (43 kb)
Appendix B(DOC 43 kb)

Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marilyn M. Schapira
    • 1
    • 2
  • Kathlyn E. Fletcher
    • 1
    • 2
  • Pamela S. Ganschow
    • 3
  • Cindy M. Walker
    • 4
  • Bruce Tyler
    • 6
  • Sam Del Pozo
    • 3
  • Carrie Schauer
    • 1
  • Elizabeth A. Jacobs
    • 5
  1. 1.The Center for Patient Care and Outcomes Research, Medical College of WisconsinMilwaukeeUSA
  2. 2.The Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical CenterMilwaukeeUSA
  3. 3.John H. Stroger, Jr Hospital of Cook County and Rush University Medical CenterMilwaukeeUSA
  4. 4.University of Wisconsin-MilwaukeeMilwaukeeUSA
  5. 5.University of WisconsinMadisonUSA
  6. 6.Institute for Medical ResearchChicagoUSA

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