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Risk Communication and the Precautionary Principle

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The perception of risks for environment and health deriving from globalization processes and an uncontrolled use of modern technologies is growing everywhere. The greater the capacity of controlling living conditions, the larger is the possibility of misusing this power. In environmental and occupational health research we tend to reduce the complexity of the observed phenomena in order to facilitate conclusions. In social and political sciences complexity is an essential element of the context, which needs to be continuously considered. The Precautionary Principle is a tool for facing complexity and uncertainty in health risk management. This paper is aimed at demonstrating that this is not only a problem of technical risk assessment. Great attention should also be paid to improve risk communication. Communication between the stakeholders (experts, decision makers, political and social leaders, media, groups of interest and people involved) is possibly the best condition to be successful in health risk management. Nevertheless, this process usually runs up against severe obstacles. These are not only caused by existing conflicts of interest. Differences in values, languages, perceptions, resources to have access to information, and to express one's own point of view are other key aspects.
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Keywords: Precautionary Principle; health risk management; partnership; risk communication; uncertainties

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Regional Agency for Health and Healthcare of Emilia-Romagna, Bologna, Italy

Publication date: 01 February 2005

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