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Brian J. Zikmund-Fisher

Associate Professor of Health Behavior and Health Education at University of Michigan

Areas of expertise

  • - Medical decision-making
  • - Health risk and data communication
  • - Use of narratives in health messages

Major works

Zikmund-Fisher BJ. The right tool is what they need, not what we have: a taxonomy of appropriate levels of precision in patient risk communication. Medical Care Research and Review 2013;70(1 suppl):37S-49S. doi:10.1177/1077558712458541 Shaffer VA, Zikmund-Fisher BJ. All stories are not alike: A purpose-, content-, and valence-based taxonomy of patient narratives in decision aids. Medical Decision Making 2013;33(1):4-13. doi:10.1177/0272989X12463266 Zikmund-Fisher BJ, Smith DM, Ubel PA, Fagerlin A. Validation of the subjective numeracy scale (SNS): Effects of low numeracy on comprehension of risk communications and utility elicitations. Medical Decision Making 2007;27(5):663-671.

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About Me

Brian J. Zikmund-Fisher, PhD., is an Associate Professor in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, University of Michigan (U-M) School of Public Health, a Research Associate Professor in the U-M Department of Internal Medicine, a member of the U-M Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation (IHPI), and part of the leadership team for the U-M Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine. He earned his PhD in Behavioral Decision Theory (a combination of decision psychology and behavioral economics) from Carnegie Mellon University and uses this interdisciplinary background to study factors that affect people’s ability to use data to make better and more informed health and medical decisions congruent with their values.

Brian develops and teaches graduate courses in health risk communication and designing health messages to be memorable (“sticky”) and has been a faculty advisor to U-M’s RELATE program ( for several years. His research and teaching overlap considerably in that his research examines design of visual displays that make health information more intuitively meaningful to the public, the effects of poor numeracy on the public’s use of health data, and the power of narratives in communications. For example, he led the development of, a free online generator of icon array risk graphics. Topical interests include vaccination, diabetes, genetic testing, dioxin exposure, and cancer prevention, treatment, and survivorship.

Courses and Programs taught by Brian J. Zikmund-Fisher