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International experts meet in Neuruppin
How to calculate, communicate and comprehend health risks
Neuruppin, 21 July 2023
The Brandenburg Medical School Theodor Fontane (MHB) in Neuruppin brings statisticians, epidemiologists, psychologists and clinicians together for an international workshop. They exchange findings on the calculation of risks for diseases and discuss ways to use risk calculators for improved healthcare provision to healthy and sick people.
Today the Internet offers easy-to-handle calculation options to determine individual risks for a specific disease (or its cure). Physicians use some of these risk calculators in clinical practice as a basis for decisions on treatment. A widespread example is the Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool, or Gail Model, named after statistician and physician Mitchell Gail from the US-American National Cancer Institute. This model permits women to calculate their individual risk for breast cancer. The quality of the calculation, however, is unsteady, and patients may interpret statements such as “your lifetime risk of breast cancer is 11.1%” in different ways. The benefit for patients depends on a precise calculation of health risks and appropriate forms of communication.
The Zentrum für Klinische Studien (ZKS/center for clinical studies) at the MHB organized an international workshop on “Risk Prediction, Communication and Perception in Health” from 13 to 15 July 2023. Prof. Dr. Michael Hauptmann, director of the ZKS and the MHB Institute of Biostatistics and Registry Research, welcomed over 60 scientists from seven countries who presented and discussed latest findings on how to calculate and communicate health risks. Participants included young researchers as well as experts of renown like Dr. Mitchell Gail, and also Sir Nicholas Wald from London who found a correlation between folic acid deficiency in pregnant women and spina bifida in their newborns.
One conclusion from the workshop was that medical experts bear the responsibility to strictly check risk calculations for an immediate benefit to patients and to quantify this benefit. This is the only way for patients and clinicians to identify useful risk calculators among the rest.
Prof. Hauptmann is highly pleased with the workshop, the support received from the German Research Foundation and the large number of participants from Germany, US, UK and the Netherlands. He is convinced that new international contacts formed at the 3-day event will produce interesting research projects.
For more information and contact data see the MHB Website.