Early heads-up: new Graduate Certificate in Risk Science and Human Health

by Andrew Maynard on June 1, 2012

This fall, graduate students at the University of Michigan School of Public Health will be able to sign up for a new Graduate Certificate in Risk Science and Human Health.  The certificate is designed to provide students with a better understanding of science-informed and socially responsive approaches to health risks that are applicable in multiple sectors. Details of the certificate program will be posted on the main Risk Science Center website shortly (we’ll include the link here when they are up).  But as a taster here are some of the highlights.  Further details can be obtained from Rick Neitzel at rneitzel@umich.edu


The Certificate in Risk Science and Human Health provides students with an integrated overview of quantitative environmental risk assessment; risk communication, management and policy, systems approaches to risk and sustainability and cost/benefit analysis.  It is designed to help students develop a broad set of transferable skills applicable to understanding, addressing, communicating and engaging on human health risks in a wide range of organizations.


Health risk impacts on every aspect of our lives.  From personal welfare to community health, and social justice to sustainable growth, the way we handle risk as individuals and as a society has profound impacts on social and economic wellbeing.  Yet it is becoming ever more difficult for public health practitioners and leaders to make informed and responsive risk-based decisions in today’s increasingly complex and interconnected society.

Well-trained scientists and practitioners are clearly needed to help address existing and emergent human health risks.  The field of risk science is incredibly broad – spanning risk identification and assessment to risk mitigation; and risk communication to risk decision-making – and providing deep education across all of these areas would be as futile as it was meaningless. Today’s accelerating pace of social and technological change is also leading to technical skills having a limited shelf life in many cases. A risk-centric and holistic approach to problem solving is therefore likely to be more valuable than specific skills.  Central to risk science philosophy is that evidence-informed decision-making is key to identifying and addressing human health risks, but that this needs to be combined with responsiveness to social, economic and political factors, and that the ability to take an integrative and adaptive approach to emerging challenges is critical.



The Certificate in Risk Science and Human Health is designed to support science-informed and socially responsive decision-making on risks to human health.   The Certificate is founded on four core principles:

  1. Human health risk decisions should always be grounded in evidence.
  2. Effective solutions to risk challenges demand an integration of cross-disciplinary expertise.
  3. For effective action on risk challenges, evidence needs to be translated into to actionable intelligence.
  4. Effective management of existing and emergent risks is essential to sustainable social and economic growth.

Students who complete the Certificate will have received science-based yet integrated training in some of the many disciplines that that risk science encompasses – including public health, risk assessment, business, engineering, public policy, social research, economics and communication.  To insure that students who complete the Certificate have adequate exposure to the breadth of content encompassed within risk science, training in three core content clusters is needed:

  • Risk communications and risk management policy;
  • Quantitative environmental risk assessment; and
  • Public health

In addition, students select courses from one of the following two clusters:

  • Systems approaches to risk and sustainability; or
  • benefit/cost and risk analysis


Upon completion of the Risk Science and Human Health Certificate students will have acquired experience in a minimum of four of the following competencies:

  1. Understand definitions, concepts, and principles of public health, and the cross-disciplinary nature of risk science.
  2. Develop and evaluate policy and communication strategies to address human health risks.
  3. Quantitatively characterize the risk to human health from existing and emergent hazards.
  4. Recognize and utilize systems-based approaches to risk management and sustainability.
  5. Conduct and compare benefit/cost analyses related to human health risk.

Previous post:

Next post: