What is a Health Risk Assessment?

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  • Written By: Felicia Dye
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 12 October 2018
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A health risk assessment is a tool that is commonly used to determine the likelihood of threats. In the health care field, these tools are often used to help determine which health risks a person may face. Government agencies tend to use these tools to appraise potential health hazards that society may face. If it is found that there are potential hazards, they usually need to be outlined and the feasibility of implementing solutions may need to be assessed.

A health risk assessment is often used in attempt to answer a question. In many instances, the question pertains to whether or not something is likely to be hazardous. If it is determined that the item in question can be hazardous, this tool may be used to determine the degree of risk and the circumstances under which that risk is most likely. It is from this information that solutions may often begin to be outlined.

The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) in California says these tools are commonly relied upon by government agencies. Public health and safety policies are often based on the results. A health risk assessment may, for example, seek to find out what threats certain chemicals pose to drinking water or what adverse effects agricultural products will have if they are consumed.


This highlights the need for a certain degree of regulation regarding the process. The manner in which a health risk assessment is conducted or the circumstances under which it is conducted is often a matter of procedure that is outlined by a federal agency. The assessment may, however, be conducted by a private entity.

It is important to note that a health risk assessment does not usually deal with problems that have already been identified. These tools are used to determine problems that are likely to occur. If a person has a health risk assessment conducted on her, one of the things she is most likely concerned with is what risks her lifestyle poses to her health in the future.

Due to the nature of these tasks, special skills are generally needed to produce a useful assessment. Highly qualified individuals or teams are usually selected for these tasks. It is likely that these individuals specialize or have significant experience in the field in which the health risk assessment needs to be done. It is often necessary for comparisons to be made, making analytical skills imperative.

It is common to find opposing views about the current threats and how pressing those issues truly are. Whether the issue is personal health or public health, there is a tendency for some who claim to be authorities to argue that certain potential problems are looming, while others who claim to be authorities may insist that no such threats exists. This can lead to a great deal of confusion and may be dangerous since certain issues may go unaddressed. A health risk assessment, however, is a tool that can be used to clarify those debates.



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