Bioethics Blogs

Developing Innovative Curricula in Public Health Ethics Using an Empirical Approach

Behrmann and colleagues argue that curriculum improvements are needed to support Canadian ethics educators in their training of future public health professionals


The recent Ebola outbreak highlights the complexity of contemporary public health interventions that pose challenging ethical issues at the interface between research (e.g., the use of experimental medicines), health policy (e.g., resource allocation), and professional practice (e.g., who and how to intervene). And so public health professionals – whether they are frontline workers, researchers, or decision-makers – need to be equipped to deal with these challenges.

The field of public health is comprised of students, practitioners and researchers from a diversity of academic backgrounds; as such, they may come to this field with various norms of practice or codes of ethics, some of which may not be well aligned. To do their jobs well, they must interact with a diversity of other professionals (e.g., clinicians, scientists, and policy-makers) and at multiple levels (e.g., from the local to the global), all the while respecting the cultural diversity of the populations they serve. Such complex professional work environments thus require thorough and nuanced professional and public health ethics education. Yet, few jurisdictions have adopted either a formal professional code of ethics for public health, or a model curriculum for public health ethics education, and there are merely a handful of ethics-related teaching resources for continuing education in this field. As a result, trainees and professionals may not know where to turn for guidance, feel ill-equipped to negotiate divergent obligations arising from different codes of ethics (e.g.,

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.