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Panel discussion on health, risk and making informed choices


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In partnership with RMIT University, EPA hosted a panel discussion on health, risk and making informed choices during National Science Week.

Risky business or worried well? The science of what and why we fear

Why do we reach for a beer but run from asbestos? Or ride a bicycle for fitness despite the potential for an accident? It can often be difficult to weigh up potential risks, so how can we make informed decisions for our health?

Tanya Ha holding an orange and peering through a model of a molecule

Science journalist and presenter Tanya Ha

Health advice comes at us from a range of sources – from Facebook friends to the World Health Organization. We all want to make the best choices, but assessing risks and sorting through available evidence isn’t always easy.

Watch host Tanya Ha and a panel of experts in health and environmental risk, communication and media as they navigate some of the common difficulties, and help sort the facts from the fiction to find the information we need to make informed choices.

EPA thanks the panellists for sharing their own views freely.


Dr Victor Kabay – Health risk advisor, EPA Victoria

Victor is a human health assessor at EPA. Human health risk assessment is the science (or sometimes the art) of trawling through information and trying to objectively assess what the risks of adverse health effects may be. Lots of different people are involved in assessing environmental pollution — some collect samples or analyse them, while others manage the sites or interact with the community. A risk assessor will normally work alongside all these people to help answer questions like, ‘What does this pollution actually mean for humans in reality?’ and ‘Should we be worried?’ Victor has practised in the area of environmental risk for about 15 years and in that time has assessed risks arising from pollution in the air, soil, groundwater and everything in between.

Professor Linda Brennan – School of Media and Communication, RMIT University

Advertising and social marketing play an important role in persuading or informing people to take positive action to protect their health. Linda’s work focusses on the use (and abuse) of advertising and communications in behaviour change campaigns; particularly for messages about public health, and for older people and communities that are linguistically and culturally diverse.

""Dr Libby Rumpff – School of BioSciences, University of Melbourne

Ecological systems are highly complex and variable through time and space, and our understanding of how and why these systems change is inherently uncertain. Despite this uncertainty, environmental managers have to make decisions about how best to invest precious resources to manage these systems. Libby’s work draws on the practices of structured decision-making, adaptive management and risk assessment to develop tools and techniques that can help resolve uncertainty in decision-making for environmental management.

""Andrew Masterson – author and journalist

Andrew has been writing about science and technology for newspapers and magazines over the past 30 years. He currently contributes to The Age, Sydney Morning Herald, Cosmos and other outlets, as well as editing The Age’s weekly ‘Livewire’ technology section. He is also a researcher and script consultant on TV science documentaries. His work has seen him wade through mounds of information and misinformation to debunk fad diets, provide alternative perspectives on happiness, and reveal how many cups of coffee are beneficial for health. He’s seen trends in health and wellness debates come and go, all the while providing information that helps readers make more informed choices. A compendium of his stories was published in August by Penguin Random House under the title Lolcatz, Santa and death by dog

Page last updated on 22 Aug 2016