Low health numeracy is a problem that could affect how well trials recruit and provide informed consent to potential participants. It’s defined by how well people access, process, interpret, communicate, and act on numerical, biostatistical, and other numbers-related health information.

There are multiple ways IRBs and researchers can improve the way they present numbers and statistics in informed consent. The following are some suggestions and best practices developed by the Center for Health Literacy at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock:

• Simplify the numerical concept by presenting information simply enough that participants do not have to make their own calculations. For example, instead of recommending a 275-pound patient lose 5% of his or her body weight, suggest that he or she lose 14 pounds.

• Keep denominators the same for comparisons. For example, readers prefer proportions with larger denominators even when the fractions are equivalent, such as 5/10 instead of 3/6.

• Use visual aids when possible, including graphic displays and icons. For example, turn 25% into a picture of four icons representing people, and only one of the four is highlighted.