About The Risk Communication Institute
Our Mission: Helping Healthcare Professionals Provide Patient-Focused Information
We provide lectures, resources and training to support
- Healthcare professionals who want to communicate effectively with patients
- Professionals in industry and agencies who are responsible for communicating safety issues to citizens
- Media who want to explain "the worry of the week or the molecule of the moment"
- Members of the public who want to put their fears into perspective and to move on to build their resiliency
The Stimulus for Founding The Risk Communication Institute
The organization started out in 1989 in response to the US Environmental Protection Agency’s realization that much of its money was being earmarked for those risks that caused most public panic - not necessarily where the money would give best environmental protection.
The challenges to be overcome at the time were that all the different government agencies used different technical units to define risks and there were thus no ways for the public to compare say chemical risks with nuclear risks. Also, to add to the public’s difficulty of making sense of the government’s figures, most of the knowledge was presented only in technical units such as 3.5X10 -3. This obviously was of no help to a concerned citizen and of necessity denied the public any chance of understanding whether the risks were big or small.
Alerted to these problems by articles and speeches from the EPA. John Paling devised his first visual aids to help the public understand risks and wrote the first edition of his book “Up to Your Armpits in Alligators? How sort out what risks are worth worrying about.” He later founded an organization specifically focused on environmental risks called, appropriately, The Risk Communication and Environmental Institute.
After a widely read review in the journal Scientific American, professionals from many other disciples made contact with the Institute and asked John Paling to advise on risks peculiar to their own concerns. He obtained a very wide variety of clients for his speaking and consulting business covering the gamut from chemical weapons, to arsenic in treated wood, to nuclear wastes, to impurities in drinking water, to pesticides in foods and, most numerously, the many risks in healthcare.
Doctors of course have the legal responsibility to inform each of their patients of their risks before they provide interventions. Strikingly, all doctors that treat patients have to do this yet, because of the pressure to learn so many other things, it is part of their job that doctors typically have no real training in whatsoever.
As more and more of John Paling’s clients came from the different branches of healthcare, he became aware that the most commonly used visual aid he had been using for explaining risks was rarely ideal for the much higher odds that are encountered in many medical procedures. This led him to devise and test other visual aids that lend themselves particularly well to healthcare concerns.
Currently, The Risk Communication Institute is organized as a division of John Paling & Co Inc.