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RISKcom is an internet-based information resource about health risks to individuals. Today we face population health risks that are complex with the potential for enormous consequences across health, environment and economic sectors. The nature of these risks requires a scientifically sophisticated public, endowed with the scientific literacy to comprehend complex population health issues.  The rapid expansion and use of the internet as an information resource provides a unique opportunity to develop comprehensive websites on population health risk issues. The internet provides the capacity to support the delivery of information using multiple formats to a wide range of individuals.

It has become widely recognised that a number of determinants (including social and behavioural factors, environmental and occupational exposures, biology and genetic endowment) affect individual and population health status.  Population health risk assessment is the comprehensive assessment of health risks in the general population based on all determinants of health.  This forms the basis for evidence-based population health risk policy analysis, and, ultimately, cost-effective population health risk management decisions. 

RISKcom summarizes population health risks emerging from each of the health determinants as well as their interactions (genetic-environment-behavioural). Population health risks to be examined will be selected on the basis of potential population health impact and timeliness.  Risk issues that will be considered include:

Biology and genetic endowment: BSE/vCJD, pandemic influenza, BRCA1/2 (breast cancer gene), antimicrobial resistance, and West Nile virus.

Environment and occupational: lead, mercury, endocrine disruptors and pesticides, radiofrequency fields, aluminum, ionizing radiation, genetically modified foods, pharmaceutical products, and air pollution.

Social and behavioural: stress, income, education, physical activity, smoking, terrorism, obesity, and alcohol. 

Risk issues are described using a phased layered format. 

Level 1: Initial content in the first level of layering introduces the risk issue in a short paragraph.

Level 2 content is presented in a paragraph format and includes a 2-3 page overview of the risk issue.  Lastly, the reader is directed to further reading on the risk issue either to research papers or useful links. Each risk issue is described with information on the issue, background information, risk assessment and management, conclusions and further reading.

Finally, our goal is to do risk-risk comparisons that will enable visitors to comprehend more fully the complexity of population health and regulatory decisions. Principles of risk communication, risk perception, and risk acceptability are also presented. 

RISKcom is a stand alone bilingual site, with links to existing McLaughlin Centre websites (,,, other international risk centres (George Washington University, Harvard University, John’s Hopkins University, University of Washington, University of Waterloo, and King’s College, UK), as well as other government and non-governmental websites. 

Development of online surveys and regular assessment of the website will enable a greater understanding of the effectiveness of web-based risk communication strategies.   

RISKcom fills a unique place among the currently available internet-based information resources.  RISKcom takes a broader perspective on health risks by considering a wide range of health determinants as described in the Integrated Framework paper.  It examines issues from a risk perspective instead of a health perspective and place risk issues into the broader context.  It is also unique in its discussion of risk science by including information about risk communication, risk perception, risk acceptability, and risk assessment and risk management of health issues all in one place. The website also targets the general public, and as such fill an important information gap.

RISKcom is housed at the McLaughlin Centre for Population Health Risk Assessment at the University of Ottawa. This website is maintained by a project coordinator and scientific content is overseen by a science panel chair of an international scientific advisory panel, a liaison group, and a communication panel. 

We kindly thank Mr. Serge Diekstra for the donation of the domain name RISKCOM.NET for this project.

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