Sarah Owens

Certified Nurse-Midwife and Public Health Coordinator

Public Health | Information Framing & Manipulation

North America | USA

The most challenging problem I have encountered is helping people understand their personal risk. In medicine and public health, we often frame risk in percentages. But people do not know how to process the information we are giving: "Does that mean I have a 5% risk, or that 5% of people in a big population could be affected?" I have tried to consistently use pictographs or colourful descriptions to discuss risk. This seems to help, but people still have very unique and individual ways of processing counselling on risk and more often than not my time to explore their understanding/perception is limited to a 15-minute prenatal visit. This has led to occasional frustration by patients who are not sure of my intention or the goals of their treatment. People don't want to be scared, they want to understand. And we need more helpful conversations to make this happen in clinical practice!


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