Speaker: Dr Norma Bargary, Department of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Limerick
Title: "Surviving Risky Statistics: Perceptions of Health Risk and Risk Communication"
Abstract: How health risk is communicated in a way that allows the public to make informed behavioural decisions is a question that has huge implications. An explosion in the diversity of media platforms in recent years and parallel decline of trust in mainstream media has contributed to a public sphere in which misrepresentation of basic health facts, both accidental and malicious, is more common than ever before. This has potentially negative outcomes in numerous areas, for example lower uptake of vaccination, lower participation in screening programmes, lack of trust in public health campaigns, and use of treatments by the public with a limited or non-existent evidence base. In order to counter the effect of the spread of health disinformation, we need to better understand how the public perceives risk and how this perception is impacted by the way in which health risk is communicated. This talk will discuss how risk is communicated in the media and will present the results of a study we carried out at UL investigating attitudes to health risk and health risk communication among students of medicine and journalism. The aim of the study was to gather instinctive responses to specific scenario-oriented questions on topics such as; understanding of risk and risk reasoning, perception of personal risk, and processing of specific types of risk communication with the aim of understanding how these students perceive risk and subsequently inform their future training.