Differnece between root cause and risk factor?

  1. I have an assignment to do and I get confused what the difference between these two
    So risk factor means that there is something that puts a person at a higher risk of developing a certain illness or disease (so obesity is a risk factor for cardiac health conditions for example)- doesn't necessarily mean that an obese person will automatically have heart issues but it increases their chances ?

    but what is root cause? So it is something that is the initial cause? I am having a hard time differentiating the two since they both sound similar to me
    would sedentary life style be a root cause of obesity? but then again someone who lives a sedentary life style doesn't always means they will be obese. .. so I don't know!
    any help would be appreciated! please and thank you =)
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    About Tammy90

    Joined: Sep '12; Posts: 43; Likes: 2


  3. by   Tammy90
    Oh another example (to see if I have an idea)
    Being homeless can put people at risk for poor physical and mental health (so homeless is a risk factor for physical and mental health) but at the same time, physical or mental health issues could be the cause of homelessness?
    Does it depend on how one words it?

    (got the above example from an article but I am not sure if they are explaining a risk factor and root cause)
  4. by   Dobeigh
    I would say that a root cause is just a risk factor. For example: obesity has many risk factors: 1. eating more than your calorie BMR 2. hypothyroidism 3. ect But what is the root cause? It can only be one risk factor. They are really similar but that is what I would think!
  5. by   Tammy90
    Yeah they sound really similar to me to , but the assignment specifically pick "root causes, risk factors or protective factors or pick a combination of all three"
    so they must mean different things.
  6. by   Jill2Shay
    All root causes are risk factors, but not all risk factors are root causes.

    So something can't be the cause of the disease without having been a risk factor first. It sounds chronological to me. You can have many risk factors for a disease without having the disease, and the list of risk factors could be very long, but once the disease manifests, the patient is no longer at risk for it, because they have it. So one of those risk factors from the list *becomes* the root cause.

    Does that make sense? At least that's my take on it.
  7. by   CT Pixie
    I would think a risk factor is just that..something that puts you at risk for certain diseases/illnesses/conditions but does not necessarily mean you will get it, whereas a root cause would the THE thing that caused the issue. Maybe someting like the root cause of Down's Syndrome is a chromosomal abnormailty on #21. Or the root cause for someones MI was a blocked coronary artery and that person's risk factors for an MI were say smoker, male, high stress job, overweight.

    A protective factor might be something that keeps the person from getting something.
  8. by   CT Pixie
    I think what they are saying is, being homeless is a risk factor for poor mental/physical health. As well as having poor mental health can be a risk factor for being homeless.

    Now, let say Joe Blow has a mental disorder. he is non compliant with meds. His condition worsens, he looses his job, he's not of sound mind...and he becomes homeless. In that case, the root cause of his homelessness is his mental condition.

    Now, let say Jane Blew has a job, a home, etc. She is laid off, collects unemployment for the max time. She's unable to find work, she has no family or friends (who can or will help) and she becomes homeless. While on the living on the streets she is under considerble stress. Having no means to get any mental help, she is thrown into a deep clinical depression. She wasn't mentally ill prior to being homeless...being homeless cause her mental issues to start, thus for her, being homeless was a risk factor that came into fruition and became the root cause of her illness.

    does that make any sense?
  9. by   Tammy90
    Thank you everyone who answered (and answered my other question as well!)
    =) I appreciate the help
  10. by   JustBeachyNurse
    Duplicate threads merged.
  11. by   HouTx
    In the real world, root cause analysis (RCA) is conducted After the Fact... to determine why something happened. It is a complex process that usually involves a multi-disciplinary team - led by a trained facilitator.

    Risk Factors, on the other hand, represent Potential problems - that can be mitigated if the right actions are taken.
  12. by   Roseyposey
    As stated by HouTx, a root cause is found after an event happens.

    Example: Root cause for unilateral lower extremity edema - DVT.
    Risk factor for DVT - s/p surgery

    Root cause for patient receiving a wrong med - nurse didn't perform 5 rights.
    Risk factor for med error: too many patients
  13. by   chris.elle
    Here's an example: Infectious diseases are CAUSED by pathogens. Anything increasing an individuals exposure/susceptibility to pathogens is a RISK FACTOR. age (elderly and babies), living or working conditions (working with children or in a hospital), weakened immune system etc etc. are risk factors of infectious diseases that are caused by pathogens.

    Hope this helps!