Identifying content to improve risk assessment communications within the Risk Profile: Literature reviews and focus groups with expert and non-expert stakeholders
Schirren, C. O.
Jenny, M. A.
Objective: To improve consumer decision making, the results of risk assessments on food, feed, consumer products or chemicals need to be communicated not only to experts but also to non-expert audiences. The present study draws on evidence from literature reviews and focus groups with diverse stakeholders to identify content to integrate into an existing risk assessment communication (Risk Profile). Methods: A combination of rapid literature reviews and focus groups with experts (risk assessors (n = 15), risk managers (n = 8)), and non-experts (general public (n = 18)) were used to identify content and strategies for including information about risk assessment results in the “Risk Profile” from the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment. Feedback from initial focus groups was used to develop communication prototypes that informed subsequent feedback rounds in an iterative process. A final prototype was validated in usability tests with experts. Results: Focus group feedback and suggestions from risk assessors were largely in line with findings from the literature. Risk managers and lay persons offered similar suggestions on how to improve the existing communication of risk assessment results (e.g., including more explanatory detail, reporting probabilities for individual health impairments, and specifying risks for subgroups in additional sections). Risk managers found information about quality of evidence important to communicate, whereas people from the general public found this information less relevant. Participants from lower educational backgrounds had difficulties understanding the purpose of risk assessments. User tests found that the final prototype was appropriate and feasible to implement by risk assessors. Conclusion: An iterative and evidence-based process was used to develop content to improve the communication of risk assessments to the general public while being feasible to use by risk assessors. Remaining challenges include how to communicate dose-response relationships and standardise quality of evidence ratings across disciplines.
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