Faktenboxen: Entscheidungen

Medical questions often have no black-and-white answers. For this reason, transparent information is crucial – as is the courage to make informed decisions for oneself.


What ARE Fact Boxes?

Fact boxes communicate the best available evidence about a specific topic in an easily understandable manner. The most important pros and cons are contrasted with each other in a tabular format, thus allowing even people with no medical or statistical background to make competent decisions.


The idea

The simple tabular format was originally developed by Eddy in the form of a balance sheet to illustrate the benefits and harms of colorectal cancer screening. Lisa Schwartz and Steven Woloshin subsequently adopted the idea in their drug fact boxes to improve direct-to-consumer drug advertisements. Since 2009, the work at the Harding Center for Risk Literacy builds on this work in order to disseminate the idea of fact boxes focusing on health topics.

Several studies show that fact boxes were effective tools for informing the general public about harms and benefits of medical treatments.



Eddy DM. Comparing benefits and harms: the balance sheet. JAMA. 1990;263(18):2493.

Schwartz LM, Woloshin S, Welch HG. (2007). The drug facts box: providing consumers with simple tabular data on drug benefit and harm. Med Decis Making 27:655-62.

Schwartz LM, Woloshin S, & Welch HG. (2009). Using a drug facts box to communicate drug benefits and harms: two randomized trials. Ann Intern Med 150:516-27.

McDowell M, Rebitschek FG, Gigerenzer G, Wegwarth O. (2016). A Simple Tool for Communicating the Benefits and Harms of Health Interventions: A Guide for Creating a Fact Box. MDM P&P 1:1-10.

Helpful Questions for Life in an Uncertain World

Fragezeichen Gesundheitsinformationen: Faktenboxen

When it comes to results of medical tests and treatments, people have a need for certainty. However, often our most important decisions must be made under considerable uncertainty. We identified a couple of questions that help you face uncertainty and facilitate your understanding of risks across different situations.

to the questions ...

Technical Terms

Wordle wichtige Begriffe

It is not always easy to evaluate (health) risks. In a glossary we have summarized and explained technical terms and criteria, which help to facilitate risk comprehension.

to the glossary ...

Fact Boxes

We have prepared fact boxes with unbiased and easy-to-understand information about different subjects




Vaccination is considered the most important prevention measure as a protection from communicable diseases.

Vaccinations are not only supposed to reduce the risk of an infection for the vaccinated individual (individual immunity), but also to indirectly protect from an infection of unvaccinated people (herd immunity) by inhibiting the pathogen from spreading through the population.

The following fact boxes will help you weigh the benefits and harms of Vaccinations.

> Fact boxes Vaccines

General Health Checks

General Health Checks

Allgemeiner Gesundheitscheck

A general health check involves an assessment of a person’s health by a health professional. It involves screening for one or more diseases or risk factors with the aim to prevent future illness or to identify risk factors for disease.

This fact box will help you weigh the benefits and harms of General health checks.

> Fact box General health checks

Dietary Supplements

Dietary Supplements

Nahrungsergänzungsmittel Selen

Selenium is a micronutrient most commonly found in fish, meat, and eggs. It is important for the maintenance of a healthy immune system and thyroid production. Consuming too little selenium can lead to a deficiency, which can cause health problems.  In industrialised countries it is rare for a person to have a selenium deficiency. Nevertheless, Selenium is readily available as a dietary supplement and it is often taken for cancer prevention or against cardiovascular diseases.

The following fact boxes will help you to compare the benefits and harms of Selenium Intake for cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

> Fact box Dietary supplements

Use of Antibiotics

Use of Antibiotics


Antibiotics are only effective against bacteria and not against viruses. The common cold, the flu, and acute otitis media are usually viral infections. Hence, antibiotics do not work in these cases.

The following fact boxes will help you weigh the benefits and harms of Antibiotics.

> Fact boxes Use of antibiotics

Early Detection of Cancer

Early Detection of Cancer


The goal of early detection cancer screening is to reduce mortality or to improve quality of life. Screening targets people who do not have symptoms and tests for hidden disease. The purpose is for early detection screening to lead to earlier, more effective or safer treatment than later treatment.

The following fact boxes will help you to compare the benefits and harms of Early detection of cancer.

> Fact boxes Early detection of cancer

Cardiovascular Diseases

Cardiovascular Diseases


Cardiovascular diseases are very common and have a severe impact on morbidity and mortality.

Risk factors are especially lifestyle related habits, e.g. smoking, unhealthy diet and lack of exercise, as well as cardiometabolic diseases, e.g. overweight, high blood pressure and disorders of the lipid and carbohydrate metabolism (e.g. diabetes mellitus).

The following fact boxes will help you weigh the benefits and harms of different interventions on Cardiovascular Diseases.

>Fact boxes Cardiovascular diseases

Treatment of Osteoarthritis of the Knee

Treatment of Osteoarthritis of the Knee


Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that affects around 10 in 100 men and 18 in 100 women aged over 60 years. Osteoarthritis in the knee occurs when the cartilage on the ends of the knee bones wears down over time and can cause damage to the knee joint.

There are different treatment options to help improve knee pain and function in osteoarthritis of the knee.

To help you to weigh the benefits and harms of the different treatment options, we created the following fact boxes.

> Fact boxes Treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee

Tonsil Surgery

Tonsil Surgery


Several factors have to be taken into account when deciding about the entire removal of the tonsils. Our fact box provides an overview of the benefits and harms of the surgical procedure tonsillectomy (complete tonsil removal).

> Fact box Tonsillectomy

Prevention of Preterm Birth: Cervical Pessary

Prevention of Preterm Birth: Cervical Pessary


To help you to weigh the benefits and harms of the cervical pessary, we created the following fact box.

> Fact box Cervical pessary for preventing preterm birth