The role of numeracy on client knowledge in BRCA genetic counseling

David B. Portnoy, Debra Roter, Lori H. Erby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Objective: To assess the impact of numeracy and health literacy on client's ability to learn information orally communicated during a BRCA 1/2 genetic counseling session. Methods: Fifty-nine videotaped simulated genetic counseling sessions were shown to 246 analogue clients (AC) recruited to imagine themselves as the client in the genetic counseling session. AC numeracy, genetic literacy, state and trait anxiety, and decisional conflict were assessed. The primary outcome was AC learning about BRCA 1/2. Results: Health literacy and numeracy were moderately correlated, and each independently predicted learning. Higher numeracy was associated with higher knowledge scores only among ACs with adequate literacy. Decisional conflict was not related to literacy, numeracy, or knowledge acquisition. It was, however, inversely related to state anxiety so that the higher post-session state anxiety, the lower the AC's decisional conflict. Conclusion: Numeracy and health literacy are associated with learning of orally communicated information during genetic counseling. It appears that numeracy can facilitate learning for literate subjects; it does not, however, make any difference in learning ability of clients with significant literacy deficits. Practice implications: Numeracy plays an important role in client's ability to learn information communicated during medical sessions, especially among clients who are otherwise regarded as literate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)131-136
Number of pages6
JournalPatient Education and Counseling
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 2010


  • Genetic counseling
  • Numeracy
  • Patient learning
  • Patient-provider interaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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