Other risk scales and tools
for aiding understanding of
We saw in Chapters 3 and 6 that people have difficulty interpreting verbal descriptors, such as those recommended by the EC and Calman. We also saw in Chapter 3 that many of us have problems when interpreting numerical probability information. Difficulties such as these have resulted in researchers suggesting a number of other ways of presenting risk information. This chapter begins by looking at some of the specific 'risk scales' that have been devised in an attempt to aid people's understanding. It then considers the use of more general graphical presentation methods. Following this, it assesses the use of new technology for presenting risk and health-related information. As part of this, it looks at a number of computerized decision aids that have been produced in recent years. Finally, it considers the advantages and disadvantages of the internet for presenting risk and health information.
According to Mohanna and Chambers (2001), a good risk scale should enable risks to be compared and described, and will increase people's understanding about the risks that they are facing. In the area of health, the use of risk scales should lead to decision making that patients and health professionals feel comfortable with, and preferably should increase the likelihood of a positive health outcome. A number of different scales have been specifically developed for presenting risk information over the past ten years or so. We will look at five of them.
Risk ladders have been used most extensively to convey information about environmental hazards, although some have been modified for use in the