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Risk Communication

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There are generally four purposes in which to engage in Risk Communication. These relate to:
  • Providing information and education

  • Effecting a behavioral change and to institute protective actions

  • Providing disaster warnings and emergency information

  • Providing a mechanism for joint problem solving and conflict resolution

Risk Communication is a “two-way” discussion between the regulators and those who are regulated.

For decades it has been well recognized that Risk Communication has three major risk difficulties: source problems, channel problems, and receiver problems.

Source problems relate to lack of trust in responsible authorities; be they scientific or regulatory disagreements among scientific experts; and use of bureaucratic, legalistic and technical language.

Channel problems can include selective and biased media reporting; premature disclosures of scientific information; and over simplifications and inaccuracies in interpretation.

Receiver problems can be a host of items which include overconfidence in one’s ability to avoid harm (the bullet syndrome); inaccurate perceptions of levels of risk; and reluctance to make trade offs among different types of risk or among risks, costs, and benefits.

Cognitive dissonance syndrome is defined as being uncomfortable in maintaining two contradictory ideas. This oftentimes results in an inability to change one’s belief concerning health risks. Once a decision is made, such a person is reluctant to make a new decision even though new information is received which contradicts their earlier decision.

Receiver difficulties can oftentimes lead to biased risk perceptions that differ from the actual risks. There is a tendency to overestimate risks from infrequent events such as death from botulism and underestimate risks from frequent events such as heart disease or events subjected to wide media exposure. Likewise, public perception is also affected by the manner in which information is organized and presented, which is called framing.

  • Participates in Interagency Mercury Round Table coordination meetings

  • Participates in EPA’s efforts to align state consumption advisories on mercury

  • Participates in education efforts by ISSC and the Gulf of Mexico Program to increase awareness of the risks of V. vulnificus from consumption of raw molluscan shellfish

  • Participated in NHANES Mercury research and findings report

  • Conducted Public Health Interactive Risk Communication Workshop for the five Gulf States
  • Conducted HACCP Training

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