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Lecture in “Health Risk Communication
March 2010

William Leiss, O.C., PhD, FRSC
University of Ottawa
McLaughlin Centre for Population
Health Risk Assessment
1 Stewart Street, Room 311
Ottawa, ON  K1N 6N5  Canada
Tel  613 -562-5800 x2116
Fax 613-562-5380



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Effective risk communication is an integral and essential aspect of effective risk management.  “Risk” is defined here as “the chance of serious loss or harm to an individual or group, resulting from either a natural or a human cause.”  The objective of risk management is “to anticipate and prevent or mitigate harms that may be avoidable.” 

This very practical orientation of risk management is matched by the equally practical objectives of risk communication, which is defined here as “sending a message about a risk to someone who needs good information in order to take precautions.”  More specifically, the objectives of effective risk communication are:

  1. To help citizens understand potential threats to their health and well-being.
  2. To help citizens take appropriate precautionary measures in response to information about risks.
  3. To help citizens set priorities in seeking to respond to the many different risks they face in daily life.

The presentation covers the following topics:
Objectives of Risk Communication
Definition and Key Components
The Risk Communication Process
Common Mistakes
Avoiding Mistakes
Preparing Key Messages







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