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Hope, ethics, and public health
  1. Steven S Coughlin
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr S S Coughlin
 Epidemiology and Applied Research Branch, Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4770 Buford Hwy, NE (K-55), Atlanta, GA 30341, USA; sic9{at}

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Considerations of hope and hopefulness should figure more prominently in ethics frameworks and other conceptual models for public health practice.

Hope is a universal human phenomenon that exists across nations and cultures. It has been examined and conceptualised from many diverse perspectives and disciplines.1,2 For example, it is a part of religious faiths and traditions including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.3 Writers, scholars, and historians have long recognised that hope plays an important part in human existence and achievement, especially in difficult times. For example, testaments of hope appear throughout the recorded history of the American Civil Rights Movement.4,5 Clinical ethicists have also examined issues pertaining to hope in the context of doctor-patient relationships, care for dying patients, and other concerns in medicine.2,6

The human occurrence of hope is also of scientific interest and has been subjected to scientific description and inquiry. Studies have examined patterns of hope experienced by people with serious illnesses or in special life circumstances, such as patients undergoing cancer chemotherapy, those receiving news about a life threatening illness from their physician, or those at the end of life.1,7,8 Such studies have suggested hope has different …

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  • The findings and conclusions in this editorial are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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