Risk is the perceived possibility or uncertain probability of an adverse outcome in a given situation. Health planners need to be aware of the community’s perception and interpretation of probabilities as they relate to health and illness. Risk is not just about taking chances (e.g., bungee jumping or having unprotected sex) but is also about uncertainty and ambiguity (as is the case with estimates of cure rates and projections about future health conditions).

Each stakeholder group assumes that there are limited resources to be allocated for addressing the health problem and is receptive or responsive to a different set of strategies for allocating health resources. The resulting conflicts among the stakeholders for the limited resources apply whether they are allocating resources across the healthcare system or among programs for specific health problems. Limited resources, whether real or not, raise ethical questions of what to do when possible gains from needed health programs or policies are likely to be small, especially when the health program addresses serious health problems.

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