National Academy of Medicine

Deadly Sins and Living Virtues of Public Health

By Harvey V. Fineberg, Jennifer Cohen, Patricia Cuff, Rick Erdtmann, Patrick Kelley, Janice Mehler, Livia Navon, Laura Pillsbury, Stephanie Pincus, Sheri Sable, Patti Simon, Isabelle Von Kohorn, Sarah Ziegenhorn
January 27, 2012 | Discussion Paper

At a recent meeting for Institute of Medicine (IOM) staff, I delivered a version of my 2011 Frank A. Calderone Prize Lecture, which included reference to the seven deadly sins. As originally enunciated by Pope Gregory I in 590 A.D., the deadly sins are lust, sloth, gluttony, greed, wrath, envy, and pride. I used these as a foil to suggest there are also seven deadly sins of public health. Retaining three of the original sins (sloth, greed, and gluttony), I added four more: ignorance, complacency, timidity, and obstinacy.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and not necessarily of the authors’ organizations, the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), or the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (the National Academies). The paper is intended to help inform and stimulate discussion. It is not a report of the NAM or the National Academies. Copyright by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.