Trust and the acquisition and use of public health information

Stephen Michael Holland, Jamie Cawthra, Tamara Schloemer, Peter Schröder-Bäck

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Information is clearly vital to public health, but the acquisition and use of public health data elicit serious privacy concerns. One strategy for navigating this dilemma is to build ’trust’ in institutions responsible for health information, thereby reducing privacy concerns and increasing willingness to contribute personal data. This strategy, as currently presented in public health literature, has serious shortcomings. But it can be augmented by appealing to the philosophical analysis of the concept of trust. Philosophers distinguish trust and trustworthiness from cognate attitudes, such as confident reliance. Central to this is value congruence: trust is grounded in the perception of shared values. So, the way to build trust in institutions responsible for health data is for those institutions to develop and display values shared by the public. We defend this approach from objections, such as that trust is an interpersonal attitude inappropriate to the way people relate to organisations. The paper then moves on to the practical application of our strategy. Trust and trustworthiness can reduce privacy concerns and increase willingness to share health data, notably, in the context of internal and external threats to data privacy. We end by appealing for the sort of empirical work our proposal requires.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-17
JournalHealth Care Analysis
Early online date9 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2022

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© The Author(s) 2021

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