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Integrated Analysis: Combining Risk and Economic Assessments While Preserving the Separation of Powers

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This article presents a process for an integrated policy analysis that combines risk assessment and benefit-cost analysis. This concept, which explicitly combines the two types of related analyses, seems to contradict the long-accepted risk analysis paradigm of separating risk assessment and risk management since benefit-cost analysis is generally considered to be a part of risk management. Yet that separation has become a problem because benefit-cost analysis uses risk assessment results as a starting point and considerable debate over the last several years focused on the incompatibility of the use of upper bounds or “safe” point estimates in many risk assessments with benefit-cost analysis. The problem with these risk assessments is that they ignore probabilistic information. As advanced probabilistic techniques for risk assessment emerge and economic analysts receive distributions of risks instead of point estimates, the artificial separation between risk analysts and the economic/decision analysts complicates the overall analysis. In addition, recent developments in countervailing risk theory suggest that combining the risk and benefit-cost analyses is required to fully understand the complexity of choices and tradeoffs faced by the decisionmaker. This article also argues that the separation of analysis and management is important, but that benefit-cost analysis has been wrongly classified into the risk management category and that the analytical effort associated with understanding the economic impacts of risk reduction actions need to be part of a broader risk assessment process.
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Keywords: Benefit-cost analysis; countervailing risk; economic analysis; risk assessment

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Food and Drug Administration, 5100 Paint Branch Parkway, College Park, MD 20740. 2: Harvard University, School of Public Health, Department of Health Policy and Management, 677 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115.

Publication date: December 1, 2004

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