Description and Examples of Index Items

Part D: Risk
(may not apply to all materials)

According to the Public Health Foundation’s epidemiology glossary, “risk” is the probability that an event will occur and affect a person within a specific time or age span. However, CDC materials often use “risk” in several different ways. Risk can refer to the

  • threat or harm to an individual or group of people (example: Drinking contaminated water is a risk to human health.)
  • outcome of a threat or harm (example: Many people don’t know they are at risk for heart disease even though heart disease is the leading cause of death.)
  • factors that make threat or harm more likely, that is risk factors (example: Binge drinking is a risk factor for alcohol-related car crashes and unintentional injuries.)
  • likelihood that a threat or harm will happen (example: Workers who make, use or work near flavoring chemicals have an increased risk of lung disease.)

When you write, talk about or show images to convey risk, be sure the meaning of risk you intend is clear from the context and topic of the material. You should not use only qualitative descriptors, such as high and low or large and small, by themselves to describe risk because people may not interpret these words the same way. A large risk to one person may be a small risk to someone else.

  1. Does the material explain the nature of the risk?
  2. Does the material address both the risks and benefits of the recommended behaviors?
  3. If the material uses numeric probability to describe risk, is the probability also explained with words or a visual?
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Page last reviewed: August 11, 2014