Expert Versus Lay Risk Discourses in Public Health: Implications for Disease Prevention

By Annmarie Ruston.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The expert approach to risk sees it as a technical matter to be tackled with more science and better risk communication. Risk is an objective concept relating to the management of future uncertainties through rational action based on calculations of probability. The lay approach to risk, on the other hand, reflects the complex web of people’s experiences in which culture, social structures, familial and social relationships all interact. The presence of these divergent risk discourses has implications for prevention and can adversely affect the outcomes of disease. The ways in which risk is constructed by lay actors is considered to be problematic as they constitute situated rationalities which confront the views put forward by experts. Whilst the claims of experts based on predictability, regularity, and certainty are viewed as being counter-productive because they do not fit with the beliefs found in popular culture nor with lay observations. Using data from studies of coronary heart disease this paper examines whether a patient-centred approach to risk assessment and management can ensure that these two risk discourses are better aligned in order to achieve improved outcomes.

Keywords: Lay Risk Dicourses, Expert Risk Discourse, Disease Prevention, Patient Centred Care, Coronary Heart Disease

International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 4, Issue 9, pp.37-50. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.495MB).

Prof. Annmarie Ruston

Professor of Health and Social Care Studies and Head, Centre for Health and Social Care Research, Canterbury Christ Church University, Chatham, Kent, UK

Annmarie Ruston is Head of the Centre for Health and Social Care Research and runs three main research programmes: public health, the organisation and delivery of health and social care and mental health. Her main research interests include lay and professional perceptions and behaviours in relation to disease including coronary heart disease, diabetes, sexual health. Organisational structures and how they affect the delivery of health and social care. Theoretical aspects of risk assessment and management.


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