Defending Public Health Regulations: The Message is the Medium
Hastings Center Report, Vol. 44, No. 1, pp. 4-6, 2014
Posted: 24 Jan 2014 Last revised: 28 Jan 2014
Date Written: January 1, 2014
In this comment on Lawrence Gostin’s article, "Bloomberg’s Health Legacy: Urban Innovator or Meddling Nanny?," Hastings Center Report (September/Oct. 2013), at 19, we argue that while conceptually sound, Gostin’s response to the paternalism charge that has been leveled at Mayor Bloomberg’s public health agenda is insufficient. Clearly, public health is losing the battle for public support. To change that, public health advocates need to reassess their ready reliance on broad, public health powers, the use of which may tempt them to adopt policies without first garnering the necessary public support. Instead of asserting their authority, public health officials should focus on engaging the public in the “deliberative democratic process” of determining ways to address public health problems. This may require not only a new messaging strategy, but an enhanced willingness to listen and respond to the legitimate concerns of affected communities; renewed attention to the effective implementation of public health interventions; and adopting a tone that is respectful of the populations to be served.
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