Health literacy is the ability to complete basic reading and numerical tasks required to perform in the health care envi- ronment.1 The specific aspect of literacy that involves solving problems requiring understanding and use of quantitative in- formation is sometimes called numeracy. Numeracy skills in- clude understanding basic calculations, time and money, measurement, estimation, logic, and performing multistep op- erations. Most importantly, numeracy also involves the ability to infer what mathematic concepts need to be applied when interpreting specific situations, and to use this information to problem solve. Clinicians, clinical care researchers, patient educators, and patients seem to have paid less attention to the numeracy component of health literacy. However, several trends in health care, including patient self-management and patient participation in decision making, strongly argue in fa- vor of change. Two papers published in this issue of the Jour- nal of General Internal Medicine2,3 motivate this exploration of the role of numeracy in health care, using the case of diabetes as an example.
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