Les risques sanitaires
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Des changements récents affectent l’approche des risques sanitaires dans le cadre de la santé publique en France. La question posée est celle des facteurs qui conduisent à repenser les principes, règles et définitions structurant la démarche scientifique d’évaluation des risques sanitaires. L’importance prise et reconnue à la demande sociale de protection contre les risques perçus par le public profane explique cette évolution aux conséquences encore incertaines. L’impact de cette récente évolution se mesure dans le plébiscite suscité par le principe de précaution et par la montée en puissance des mesures de sécurité sanitaire.This summary provides a status report on recent changes affecting approaches to health risks in the French public health sector. The essential issue relates to factors which lead to a complete rethinking of the principles, rules and definitions which structure the scientific approach to risk assessment. The importance which has been given to such risks, the nature of which are widely-perceived by the general public, explains the reasons for this development, the consequences of which are as yet uncertain. The main impact of this development is illustrated by a greater public awareness of the need to take precautions and by the rapid expansion of health safety measures. In France, the current public interest in health risks follows hot on the heels of a period of total disinterest for public health measures based on risk analysis. Such widespread attention on an area which was hitherto monopolised by a handful of scientists is paralleled by a questioning of the rules and conventions related to risk identification and assessment. The aim of this summary is to examine this change in relation to three distinct social phenomena: high social demand for health and safety; the questioning of the established distinction between risk and danger; the importance of risk perception in risk assessment and risk management. Analysis of these issues helps to bring to light the modifications which affect the relationship between awareness and management of risks. There are two main, closely-linked consequences of this change: the first of these is illustrated by the importance granted to the precautionary principal, which can help to offset the inadequacies of traditional prevention; the second is shown by the radical and generalised nature of health and safety measures implemented by the public authorities - these measures are clearly intended as a response to public demand for protection against danger.