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Discussion: Ethics and Public Health Data

Public health officials have an obligation to protect both the individual and the “greater good” of the community. This dual mandate can produce situations in which ethically sound decision making is ambiguous. For instance, during the monitoring of many diseases and chronic illnesses, data are shared among multiple agencies for the sake of obtaining a more inclusive data set. Individuals may feel that their privacy is being encroached upon when their personal information is shared among these agencies. As our capacity to access and link data from various disparate sources is enhanced, the security of one’s personal and identifying information is diminished. Indeed, there are frequent reports in the news of data security breaches with potentially devastating consequences for consumers and/or patients.

Post a brief explanation of what you consider to be the ethical considerations inherent in sharing health data. Then, state your position on whether it is more important, from an ethical standpoint, to protect an individual’s identity or protect the community’s health. Justify your response. Include disease surveillance and informatics examples.


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