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Relative risk rather than absolute risk reduction should be preferred to sensitise the public to preventive actions
  1. Nicolas Chapelle1,2,
  2. Myriam Martel3,
  3. Alan N Barkun3,4,
  4. Marc Bardou5,6
  1. 1 Institut des Maladies de l'appareil digestif, CHU Nantes Unité de gastroentérologie, Nantes, Pays de la Loire, France
  2. 2 UMR1064, CRTI, Université de Nantes, Faculté de Médecine, Nantes, France
  3. 3 Division of Gastroenterology, McGill University Health Centre, Montreal, Québec, Canada
  4. 4 Department of Clinical Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational health, McGill University, Montreal, Québec, Canada
  5. 5 UMR INSERM 1231, Université de Bourgogne UFR des Sciences de Santé, Dijon, Bourgogne, France
  6. 6 INSERM-Centre d'Investigations cliniques 1432 (CIC-1432), CHU Dijon-Bourgogne, Dijon, France
  1. Correspondence to Professor Marc Bardou, INSERM-Centre d’Investigations Cliniques 1432 (CIC 1432), CHU Dijon, Dijon BP 77908, Bourgogne, France; marc.bardou{at}

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We thank Lawrence and colleagues1 for their interest in our work,2 about which they raised some comments as the need of expressing results in absolute rather than relative risks.

As they appropriately mentioned in their correspondence, absolute risk is an important parameter for the estimation of the effect of an intervention and must sometimes be preferred to relative risk.

However, when discussing with health professionals and policymakers, using absolute risk reductions, expressed as percentages, may incorrectly lead to an intervention being considered unnecessary. As example, what would be the point of reducing by 30% the occurrence of an event affecting 2% of the population? This is exactly what we were confronted to with the COVID-19 pandemic, when policymakers were criticised for putting in place measures to reduce individual freedoms, which were considered excessive in relation to the perception …

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  • Contributors All authors contributed to the preparation and revision of this manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.