Public-health priorities are in part driven by fear, yet fear has long been recognized as posing a threat to effective public health interventions. In this article, the authors review the role of fear in global health by focusing on the leading global cause of death and disability: Noncommunicable diseases. Taking an historical perspective, first the authors review Samuel Adams' 1911 analysis of the role of fear in generating public health priority and his recommendations about mass educating the public. Next, they show that Adams' analysis still applies today, drawing on contemporary responses to H1N1 and HIV, while illustrating the ongoing neglect of long-term threats such as noncommunicable diseases. Then, they pose the question, Is it possible, necessary, or useful to create a fear factor for noncommunicable diseases? After reviewing mixed evidence about the effects of fear on social change (on individual behaviors and on building a mass movement to achieve collective action), the authors conclude by setting out an evidence-based, marketing strategy to generate a sustained, rational response to the noncommunicable disease epidemic.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Health(social science)
- Library and Information Sciences