National Academy of Medicine

Living Virtues of Public Health

By Tiffany Cloutier, Robert Hamilton, Kristi Fossum Jones, Edward Mberu Kamau, Vikram Khanna, Tara McCoy, Emily Ann Miller, Anila Naz, Holly Patrick, Jillian Penrod, Richard F. Southby, Elizabeth McGean Weist, Yan Xu, Harvey V. Fineberg
June 27, 2012 | Discussion Paper

In a discussion paper published in January 2012, a group of us at the Institute of Medicine put forward some ideas about the “deadly sins” of public health. At the end, I suggested six initial candidates for the counterweight, public health’s “living virtues”: (1) moderation, (2) prevention, (3) preparedness, (4) empathy, (5) science, and (6) service.

I invited others to suggest what they would choose for the seventh living virtue, whether a personal attribute (such as “mindfulness”) or social value (such as “equity”). Among the dozen submissions received, three relate to the idea of working together (collaboration and partnership), another three stress thinking of the other (selflessness, altruism, and the golden rule), and the remaining half cover an array of others—idealism and leadership, prudence and evaluation, honesty and patience. See which of the following virtues appeal to you.

Harvey V. Fineberg, MD, PhD
President, Institute of Medicine

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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.