On being responsible: Ethical issues in appeals to personal responsibility in health campaigns

Nurit Guttman, William Harris Ressler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Appeals to personal responsibility are highly prevalent in health communication campaigns, but their use entails both moral and strategic considerations. This article provides an overview of the notion of personal responsibility as a persuasive appeal in public health communication campaigns and an analysis of concomitant ethical implications. Whereas the issue of responsibility often is acknowledged by practitioners and scholars as a perennial challenge in health interventions, conceptual tools for the identification of its subtle manifestations are not readily available. This article outlines a framework that contextualizes potentially paradoxical consequences of campaign appeals to personal responsibility that can be explained by the medieval allegory of the “Tragedy of the Commons,” psychological attribution theory, and public health concerns regarding ``blaming the victim.” Practice-oriented questions are introduced to help identify ethical issues in personal responsibility appeals that can be utilized in the design and implementation of health campaigns.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-136
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Health Communication
Volume6
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 2001

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