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Michael Power, MB BCh, MD, DCH

NHS Clinical Knowledge Summaries Service

Provided by the Sowerby Centre for Health Informatics at Newcastle Ltd, Newcastle, UK

Heath C, Heath D. Made to stick. Why some ideas take hold and others come unstuck. London: Random House, 2007.

Figure 1 Made to stick can be obtained from for $24.95 or for £7.99.

Put it before them briefly so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remember it and, above all, accurately so they will be guided by its light.

Joseph Pulitzer

When teaching evidence-based practice (EBP), have you ever wondered, as I have, how to make the ideas you’re communicating stick? If so, you will find this book by brothers Chip and Dan Heath even more useful than Joseph Pulitzer’s advice to journalists.

EBPers might be put off by the book’s management guru style and business orientation: there is a wealth of inspirational anecdotes (mostly from marketing) to support each idea. However, the recommendations are evidence-based, and do apply to communication in general.

In this review of the book I aim (1) to show how the Heaths’ recommendations can be applied to teaching EBP, and (2) to spark your curiosity so that you buy or borrow the book to get the references to the supporting evidence from cognitive science.

To see how these ideas can be applied in EBP, imagine that you need to lead a teaching session on odds ratios and, following Stephen Simon,1 you take survival of the passengers on the Titanic as your example. Here are the data and calculations that you will need to prepare your session:

Male passengers:

142 survived, 709 died

Odds of survival = 142/709 = 0.20

Risk (chance) of survival = 142/(142+709)  =  17%

Female passengers:

308 survived, 154 died

Odds of survival = 308/154 = 2.00

Risk (chance) of survival = 308/(308+154)  =  67%

Odds ratio (OR) for survival = 0.20/2.00  =  0.10

Relative risk (RR) for survival = 17%/67%  =  0.25

The Heaths prescribe 6 “Do’s” and 1 important “Don’t” to ensure that your audience remember …

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