Bioethics Blogs

Navigating Complex Challenges in Global Health Research: Reflections on Harvard’s Ethical Issues in Global Health Research Program

By Avery Avrakotos, education and policy manager

Last year, I was fortunate to have an opportunity to attend Ethical Issues in Global Health Research (EIGHR): Blending Cultures, Building Capacities, and Bolstering Collaboration. The four-day program, offered by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, examined the unique issues that face institutional review boards (IRBs) and researchers reviewing and conducting international research.

As education and policy manager at PRIM&R, I regularly prepare written updates on federal laws, regulations, and news stories related to human subjects protections for distribution to PRIM&R’s members, the majority of whom are research protections professionals. This task requires me to understand the ethical and regulatory aspects of human subjects protections. Given the nature of change and evolution in our field, I continually seek to expand my understanding, so when I heard about the EIGHR program, I was excited at the prospect of attending and gaining better insight into the complexities of global research.

Through a mix of small group discussions, interactive presentations, and cases studies, EIGHR provided me with an understanding of issues that should be considered in the context of global research. For instance, this year, I spent time exploring some of the challenging ethical and regulatory questions that came to the fore in the wake 2014 West African Ebola outbreak. As many who followed the outbreak know, the absence of approved treatments and vaccines exacerbated the epidemic, and researchers and regulators alike rushed to develop new options. This has been a complicated endeavor, however, because research, and especially research being conducted across borders in the midst of a public health crisis, requires careful ethical deliberation.

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.