Risk Communication in the 21st Century

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AGES TV - Dr. Ragnar E Löfstedt, Professor für Risikomanagment und Direktor des King's Centre for Risk Management am King's College London: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01rZCvb_gGQ&list=UUaDErMBvGGb1FZoLmdRenbQ&index=1&feature=plcp

Fachsymposium "Verbraucherschutz, Öffentliche Gesundheit & Arzneimittelsicherheit im Spannungsfeld Risiko, Krise und Panikmache", 21.11.2011 (AGES, Wien)

Finanz, EHEC, Fukushima - Wahrnehmung und Umgang mit einer Krise sind so unterschiedlich und individuell, wie die Menschen selbst. Doch wie empfinden wir VerbraucherInnen Risiko und was sagt die Wissenschaft dazu? Wann beginnt aus einer potentiellen Gefahr eine tatsächliche Krise zu werden? Und wann wird eine Krise zur medialen Panikmache? Rund 100 VertreterInnen aus Politik und Wirtschaft, Behörden und Medien diskutierten den Umgang mit gefühlten und tatsächlichen Risiken und dem Management im Krisenfall. Die Themen reichten von Dioxin über EHEC bis Fukushima, von BSE über Acrylamid bis zur Vogelgrippe.

Neben Gesundheitsminister Alois Stöger standen mit Risikoforscher Prof. Dr. Ragnar Löfstedt (Direktor des King's Centre for Risk Management am King‘s College, London) und Prof. DDr. Andreas Hensel (Präsident des deutschen Bundesinstituts für Risikobewertung, BfR) zwei internationale Experten aus dem Bereich Risikoforschung und Risikomanagment für einen Dialog bereit. Priv.-Doz. Dr. Pamela Rendi-Wagner (Generaldirektorin für Öffentliche Gesundheit im Bundesministerium für Gesundheit, BMG) und Univ.-Prof. Dr. Marcus Müllner (Bereichsleiter der Arzneimittelagentur AGES PharmMed) erläuterten die Risikokommunikation in der öffentlichen Gesundheit anhand der Beispiele Fukushima bzw. Risiken und Nutzen von Arzneimitteln. Die PR-Expertinnen Sabrina Oswald und Martina Tuma beleuchteten die Anforderungen der Risikokommunikation von Wirtschaftsunternehmen in Zeiten des „Web 2.0“.

Gemäß dem Spruch "Nach der Krise ist vor der Krise" sehen die ExpertInnen vor allem Bedarf an organisatorischer Vorbereitung (Krisenhandbuch, Ansprechpartnern, etc), inhaltlicher Aufbereitung der eigenen Krisen-PR-Themen sowie professionellem Management im akuten Krisenfall. Investiert werden sollte „in Friedenszeiten“ in den Aufbau von Vertrauen unter Einbindung von Meinungsbildnern sowie in Bereitstellung transparenter Informationen unter Verwendung unabhängiger wissenschaftlicher Expertise. Denn eine jede Krise ist über die wirtschaftlichen Folgen des betroffenen Produzenten hinaus immer mit enormen volkswirtschaftlichen Kosten verbunden. Schlussendlich gebe es nur eine Antwort für eine Öffentlichkeit, die regelmäßig und latent mit Angst machenden Krisen konfrontiert wird: schnelle, adäquate und transparente Information.

Details zu Programm, Inhalten und Vortragenden: http://www.ages.at/ages/ages-akademie/stakeholderveranstaltungen/wien-risikokommunikation/

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Risk Communication in the 21st Century

  1. 1. Risk Communication in the 21st Century Ragnar Löfstedt Professor and Director King’s Centre for Risk Management King’s College, London Classified - Internal use 1
  2. 2. In this talk I will: Provide a definition of Risk Communication and put it in context with examples Describe how we in Europe have moved from an old consensus model to a new more transparent deliberative model of regulation Summarise some of the teething problems associated with this new model Describe what may happen with the new model of regulation over a 5-10 year period Finally, offer some possible solutions to the teething problems Classified - Internal use 2
  3. 3. Introduction to Risk Communication: Field has its origins in risk perception (Fischhoff, Slovic, Lichtenstein) People viewed risks differently: Natural – Technological Voluntary – Involuntary Familiar – Non Familiar Control – Non Control High Frequency/Low Consequence Risk VS Low Frequency/High Consequence Risk Female - Male Classified - Internal use 3
  4. 4. Introduction to Risk Communication: Based on these findings, regulators and industry took the view that one should develop risk communication programmes Build nuclear power plants Site nuclear waste facilities Build waste incinerators Convince publics that certain foods are safe Classified - Internal use 4
  5. 5. Introduction to Risk Communication: Three risk communications strategies put forward: Top-down Dialogue Bottom-up Classified - Internal use 5
  6. 6. Introduction to Risk Communication: Risk communication still difficult to do! Social / Amplifications / Attenuations Narrative Trust / No trust Classified - Internal use 6
  7. 7. Introduction to Risk Communication:Over the years, risk communication efforts haveexperienced both successes and failures: Failures Swedish (2002) acrylamide scare Shell – Brent Spar oil storage buoy US Dept of Energy – siting nuclear waste storage facility Successes UK – FSA building trust post-BSE Johnson & Johnson – Tylenol scare Sweden-EON – Barseback nuclear power plant incident Classified - Internal use 7
  8. 8. Policy background:European’s have had their fair share ofregulatory “scandals”, emanating both from realor perceived health issues: Dioxins in Belgian chicken feed Tainted blood in France Mad Cow disease in UK and elsewhere Foot and Mouth Disease The UK MMR fiascoLed to public distrust towards policy makers Classified - Internal use 8
  9. 9. Led to a change in the making ofregulation from: * Old “consensus” model: Policymakers and industry met behind closeddoors and made regulatory decisions. Elitist in nature because meetings involvedheads of industry, senior representatives fromunions, etc. Scientists had important role to play outliningthe pros and cons of regulatory actions for elites. Citizen and stakeholder groups rarelyconsulted. Classified - Internal use 9
  10. 10. To a new model based on:Greater public and stakeholder participation Greater consideration for environmental and social valuesGreater transparency in regulatory strategies and decisions More accountability of the regulatorGreater use of precaution The role of Science is downplayed, as scientific results are increasingly under scrutiny - scientists seen as just another stakeholder The role of Media is enhanced Distrust of “old” regulators = rise of “new” regulators Classified - Internal use 10
  11. 11. A number of teething problemsGreater public and stakeholder participation  Self selection process  GM Nation?  North Black Forest (3.5% participated) Involving stakeholders can lead to greaterpublic trust  Stakeholders are also listened to  Feel ownership of the outcome YET involving stakeholders can lead to decrease in public trust  NGOs may have separate agendas  Swedish Chemical Inspectorate example Classified - Internal use 11
  12. 12. A number of teething problems (cont.)Open and Transparent Regulatory Practices Seen as a need, as many regulatory scandals arecaused by lack of transparency However, transparency can also lead to:  Outsourcing of risk communication  Public having to make their own decisions Classified - Internal use 12
  13. 13. Transparency leads to policy vacuums(old days there was a consensus) Regulators are slow off their feet (firefighting) However, transparency can also lead to:  NGOs issue managers  Transparency leads to scientific pluralism Classified - Internal use 13
  14. 14. New model: use of the precautionaryprinciple and growth of risk aversion New scandal around the corner - better safethan sorry In some cases, over regulation prevailsCommissions decision to ban imports of groundnuts Leads to problems associated with risk-riskparadigm Classified - Internal use 14
  15. 15. Role of Science Classified - Internal use 15
  16. 16. The “rise” of the new regulatorsAspartame case: Ramazzini Foundation (RF) July 2005press conference noting that aspartame causes cancer in rats RF refused to share data with EFSA  Amplified the scare  Continued press conferences  Press releases  Interviews with the media Media Vacuum Occurs  Secondary amplification  Campaign groups  Activist journalists EFSA May 06 holds press conference  Research not peer reviewed  No dose response relationship aspartame-cancer  Rats may have been ill to begin with Classified - Internal use 16
  17. 17. Aspartame (cont.)Outcome: ”un-ethical” amplification of a risk Negatively impacted perceptions of aspartame among media, stakeholders, and eventually consumers Caused 40% reduction of table top aspartame usage in many countries-e.g. France Deprives the overweight and obese, and more critically so the diabetics, of healthy alternatives for sweet tasteKey take-aways: Media needs to become a more responsible communicator Lack of transparency can lead to communication vacuum There were no credible science organisations able to refute findings early on Showed further problems with the new model of regulation Classified - Internal use 17
  18. 18. Role of Media As pointed out with the Ramazzini study, it is obvious thatthe role of the media is critical in properlycommunicating health information, so as not to causepanic and unsubstantiated reaction. The following slides provide a ‘case study’ on their rolein “mis-presenting” health information and increating and amplifying a health scare. Classified - Internal use 18
  19. 19. An article published in The Guardian in 2005, reflects other news articles published at the time into the Ramazzini Foundation Study into Aspartame, which found it caused kidney cancer and was linked to other cancers. The study has since been discredited, but is nonetheless regularly featured in any current coverage on the subject of low- calorie sweeteners.Classified - Internal use
  20. 20. This article, posted on the BBC News website in late 2009 uses the launchof a FSA study into Aspartame to publish and article on concerns over theside effects of consuming the sweetener. Although more balanced in tone,it repeated previous concerns linking Aspartame to cancer, fertility issuesetc displaying how easy it is for old claims (and inaccurate) to resurface. Classified - Internal use
  21. 21. Looking at the safety of low-calorie sweeteners in particular, this story ran inThe Daily Mail in May 2011 providing details of a EU review into the safety ofAspartame. The review gave the media a platform to repeat old and disputedclaims about the safety of Aspartame with minimal balance. Classified - Internal use
  22. 22. In the space of just one week, these three health stories ran ascover stories in the Daily Express, illustrating what a confusing,and potentially irresponsible picture even one media outlet canpaint around healthy diet and nutrition habits. Classified - Internal use
  23. 23. So what will happen? Is the new model of regulation here to stay?Yes, it will. Regulators, policy makers and industry will remain distrusted by the public at large Although public trust levels will vary between different ministries and different countries. Not all negative-trust levels can rebound Yet scandals will remain (particularly in food sectors) Classified - Internal use 23
  24. 24. The precautionary principle as a regulatory tool will remain Many regulators see it as a convenient tool(in replace of more expensive andcomplicated risk assessments) 3 recent decisions  The paraquat (Sweden-European Court of First Instance)  UK FSA’s decision to call for a voluntary ban of azo dyes (April 2008)  EU wide ban of deca-BDE-a brominated flame retardant found in electronic appliances Classified - Internal use 24
  25. 25. Policy makers/regulators will doeverything possible to halt dilution ofpower  Deliberation for many will be a façade  Do not want to work with NGOsSome countries more ready for the newmodel than others Small member states will have difficult to copeAggressive media will lead to continuedpublic distrust of policy makers andregulators Export of the “British model” to the rest of Europe Classified - Internal use 25
  26. 26. Going Forward & ConclusionsHow can we best sort out the teething problems?Regulators: Ensure that regulators and policy makers are prepared for the transparency era. Going forward, we will have more rather than less transparency; presently they are not ready. Develop rigorous models-frameworks for where the precautionary principle should and should not be used - good example is the European Commission’s communication on the topic from 2000 Fund more research in how to make deliberation best work - how can we move away from the self selection process? Ensure that communication director within a regulatory agency is part of the executive function Classified - Internal use 26
  27. 27. Conclusions (cont.)Science: Promote independent scientific advice - with thecaveat that this will require government to become alarger funder of university departments Promote the establishment of a genuine Europeanacademy of sciences - set up specifically to reducescientific uncertaintyMedia: The establishment of some form of mediaguidelines to ensure that media does notunnecessarily amplify risks that in many cases shouldbe attenuated-and communicate numbers accurately Classified - Internal use 27

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