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Biomedical Literacy in the United States: Exploring the borderland between science and citizenship
Unformatted Document Text:  13 science may now begin to follow biomedical policy issues and the political processes that produce public policy on these matters. It appears that there can be traffic across this border from both directions. The second model was helpful in understanding the factors that produce actual political contacting on a health or biomedical policy issue. The combination of variables that were measured in this model provided important insights into the processes of communication and the motivation to political actions. First, the finding that the level of biomedical literacy plays an important role in fostering political contacting provides a clear life cycle linkage back to college-level science courses. While this adolescence to young adulthood to later adulthood linkage has been debated for years, this model provides a clear path from college experiences to adult behaviors. This result suggests that the influence of adolescent and young adult experiences on adult behaviors is more of a cascading stream than a broad and impassible border. Second, the finding that attentiveness to a specific issue is strongly associated with subsequent political behaviors is supportive of the general political and issue specialization models proposed by Almond (1950), Rosenau (1961, 1963, 1974), and Miller (Miller, 1983a, 1995; Miller, Pardo, and Niwa, 1997; Miller and Pardo, 2000). In this analysis, attentiveness to biomedical research was predicted by a combination of age, general educational attainment, and general political interest, but not by college-level science courses. This pattern suggests that issue attentiveness is more likely to be built on general education and public policy interests than narrower technical competence per se. Third, the findings that political contacting behavior is related to both attentiveness and literacy and that the strength of those relationships is relatively similar suggests that the border between these two constructs in open, fluid, and overlapping. But the border metaphor is still useful because it is clear that some individuals are unable to cross this border. Many more citizens are attentive to biomedical policy than are biomedically literate. In the absence of good longitudinal data, we cannot measure the relative traffic across the border and the number of individuals who cannot make the crossing. There is a

Authors: Miller, Jon. and Kimmel, Linda.
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science may now begin to follow biomedical policy issues and the political processes that produce public
policy on these matters. It appears that there can be traffic across this border from both directions.
The second model was helpful in understanding the factors that produce actual political
contacting on a health or biomedical policy issue. The combination of variables that were measured in
this model provided important insights into the processes of communication and the motivation to
political actions.
First, the finding that the level of biomedical literacy plays an important role in fostering political
contacting provides a clear life cycle linkage back to college-level science courses. While this
adolescence to young adulthood to later adulthood linkage has been debated for years, this model
provides a clear path from college experiences to adult behaviors. This result suggests that the influence
of adolescent and young adult experiences on adult behaviors is more of a cascading stream than a broad
and impassible border.
Second, the finding that attentiveness to a specific issue is strongly associated with subsequent
political behaviors is supportive of the general political and issue specialization models proposed by
Almond (1950), Rosenau (1961, 1963, 1974), and Miller (Miller, 1983a, 1995; Miller, Pardo, and Niwa,
1997; Miller and Pardo, 2000). In this analysis, attentiveness to biomedical research was predicted by a
combination of age, general educational attainment, and general political interest, but not by college-level
science courses. This pattern suggests that issue attentiveness is more likely to be built on general
education and public policy interests than narrower technical competence per se.
Third, the findings that political contacting behavior is related to both attentiveness and literacy
and that the strength of those relationships is relatively similar suggests that the border between these two
constructs in open, fluid, and overlapping. But the border metaphor is still useful because it is clear that
some individuals are unable to cross this border. Many more citizens are attentive to biomedical policy
than are biomedically literate. In the absence of good longitudinal data, we cannot measure the relative
traffic across the border and the number of individuals who cannot make the crossing. There is a


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