Decision Making Framework

Good health policy and effective risk management depend on good advice from scientists.

Risk: A measure of both the harm to human health that results from being exposed to a hazardous agent, together with the likelihood that the harm will occur.

Health Canada's Decision Making Framework is a process for identifying and managing risks to health. These risks may arise from diseases, hazardous substances, food, medical devices, drugs, tobacco and consumer products.

The Framework consists of a series of inter-connected and inter-related steps.These six steps may be grouped into three phases:

  • Issue identification (identify the issue and put it into context);
  • Risk assessment (assess risks and benefits); and
  • Risk management (identify and analyze options, select a strategy, implement the strategy and monitor and evaluate the results).
Decision Making Framework


Decision Making Framework

This is a graphic that shows the risk management decision-making framework which consists of a series of inter-connected and inter-related steps. There are six steps: identify the issue and put it into context; assess the risks and benefits; identify and analyze options; select a strategy; implement the strategy; and monitor and evaluate the results. The center of the graphic shows how these six steps involve interested and affected parties throughout the process, including partners, the public, and other stakeholders.


Generally speaking, the process begins at the top of the diagram, and proceeds clockwise through the other steps. The process is flexible in that one may move back and forth between steps or revisit steps based on available information. For example, a previous step may be revisited when new information becomes available and needs to be considered.

Making Decisions Using Science

Scientists contribute at each of the above steps.

For example, scientists produce and collect the data relevant to the issue, assess the risks based on all available evidence, and identify possible courses of action. They are an essential voice during the decision-making process where all risk factors are considered and weighed against potential benefits.

Once a course of action is determined and implemented, scientists will also monitor and evaluate effectiveness.

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