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“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, not so good when people obey and acclaim him, worse when they despise him... But of a good leader who talks little when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say, “We did it ourselves.”
Clearly John Ashton’s aphorism mirrors Lao Tzu’s thoughts on leadership, and is thus hard to argue against.1 However, I think public health practitioners should indeed be “bothered... if we don’t get the credit for our own ideas.” It is precisely this self effacing stance that has led to the current situation where public health is grossly undervalued and under-resourced. It is hard enough trying to promote a negative—the disease outbreak that didn’t happen—we only make it worse for ourselves if we allow others to claim responsibility for all the visible successes.
Why should public health practitioners be employed if the successes are due to the “exertions” of politicians and generic bureaucrats? It is time that we assembled the evidence of our many successes and market public health and its practitioners aggressively. We need to attract the attention of those who procure sickness services at ever increasing expense and show them the folly of neglecting the protectors, promoters, and the preventers. Time to dispense with the bushel and let our lights shine!
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