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Using Stats to Scare Up Support

Health, Marketing, attention, risk, statistics

Don’t be surprised if there are some scary health statistics lurking amid the holiday greetings and packages in your mailbox this month.

Year-end appeals from nonprofit groups that fight against disease often are freighted with statistics such as these: “One in eight women will contract breast cancer in their lifetime,” or “Diabetes kills more people than AIDS and breast cancer combined.”

Such messages can be effective in gaining attention and marshaling support, advocates say. But they also can mislead or even scare people ill-equipped to translate the numbers into their personal level of risk.

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