Guilt, Fear, Stigma and Knowledge Gaps: Ethical Issues in Public Health Communication Interventions

22 Pages Posted: 26 Oct 2004  

Nurit Guttman

Tel Aviv University - Department of Communication; University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) - Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

Charles T. Salmon

Michigan State University - College of Communication Arts and Sciences

Abstract

Public health communication campaigns have been credited with helping raise awareness of risk from chronic illness and new infectious diseases and with helping promote the adoption of recommended treatment regimens. Yet many aspects of public health communication interventions have escaped the scrutiny of ethical discussions. With the transference of successful commercial marketing communication tactics to the realm of public health, consideration of ethical issues becomes an essential component in the development and application of public health strategies. Ethical issues in public health communication are explored as they relate to eight topics: 'targeting' and 'tailoring' public health messages to particular population segments; obtaining the equivalence of informed consent; the use of persuasive communication tactics; messages on responsibility and culpability; messages that apply to harm reduction; and three types of unintended adverse effects associated with public health communication activities that may label and stigmatise, expand social gaps, and promote health as a value. We suggest that an ethical analysis should be applied to each phase of the public health communication process in order to identify ethical dilemmas that may appear subtle, yet reflect important concerns regarding potential effects of public health communication interventions on individuals and society as a whole.

Suggested Citation

Guttman, Nurit and Salmon, Charles T., Guilt, Fear, Stigma and Knowledge Gaps: Ethical Issues in Public Health Communication Interventions. Bioethics, Vol. 18, No. 6, pp. 531-552, November 2004. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=608425

Nurit Guttman (Contact Author)

Tel Aviv University - Department of Communication ( email )

Tel Aviv 69978
Israel

University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) - Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

97 Paterson Street
New Brunswick, NJ 08903
United States

Charles T. Salmon

Michigan State University - College of Communication Arts and Sciences ( email )

East Lansing, MI 48824
United States

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