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2016 Conference

Abstract Number: ETH-04 | ID: 4815

Linking risk assessment with risk communication for better evidence informed policy making: Ethical Discussions

Martin Tondel*, Uppsala University, Sweden, martin.tondel@medsci.uu.se;
Papers on risk assessment, risk perception and health costs are presented. Exposures include air pollution (SO2, emissions from a waste incinerator, PM2.5) and microbes (virus, bacteria, protozoa, helminths). Outcomes are hospitalization rates for respiratory disease, gastrointestinal illness (GI) and disease mapping. Health cost is calculated in Disability-Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) for GI and country specific cost estimates expressed as percent of national Gross Domestic Product adjusted for purchasing power (PM2.5). Knowing costs in both illness and in monetary terms is often needed to justify investments for exposure reduction for minimizing the public health burden. To achieve a more efficient risk communication it is important understanding people’s risk perception to whom the policy is directed. Validity of all data and models used are crucial for correct interpretation. A first order principle in bioethics is that research should avoid harm to the individuals and to the communities studied. Is there a risk for unintentional harm to the population from results emerging from ecologic based exposure models? Other ethical principles in public health research require community engagement and informed consent of study participants. What kinds of ethical dilemmas can arise when doing registry-based studies without informing the community that is studied? Risk communication and management plans are needed to fulfill the obligation of transparency to the study population. However, situations can be identified where risk communication can cause more harm than good. What ethical dilemma arises if the cost calculation is not accurate and leads to unnecessary action, or a lack of action? Is there an ethical dilemma in a utilitarian perspective in using DALYs for action? Action for a serious disease in a few affected persons early in life can save as many DALYs as action for a less serious disease late in life. These questions will be addressed in the ethics discussion.