Online Program

Ethical challenges and issues facing North-South global population health research collaborations

Tuesday, November 3, 2015 : 11:10 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.

Martin Forde, Professor, Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, St. George's University, St. George's, Grenada
Sandra Tomsons, PhD, Department of Philosophy, University of Winnipeg, Winnipeg, MB, Canada
Karen Morrison, PhD, Health, Nursing and Environmental Studies, York University, Toronto, ON, Canada
Angela Gomez, PhD, Research Consultant, St. George, Grenada
There currently is very little guidance available to global population health researchers on how to deal with the unique and novel challenges that arise when conducting research that goes outside of the well-defined boundaries of classical research study designs.  In addition to multi-agency involvement, differing moral values and moral systems of involved participants potentially impact North-South global population research projects.  Given that current ethics guidelines do not inform researchers on how to deal with ethical challenges and issues that typically arise in the conduct of North-South research collaborations, there is thus a need to develop de novo guidelines and protocols which can adequately address the challenges faced by researchers involved in global population health research partnerships.

Back in 2006, the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Global Health Research Initiative (GHRI) launched the Teasdale-Corti (TC) Global Health Research Partnership Program.  Arising out of the TC teams’ experiences, a grant call was put out inviting grant proposals to analyze and determine the sources of the ethical concerns that arise in North (developed)-South (developing) team-based population health research efforts.  Using an online survey tool, the experience of all 80 researchers working on the 14 TC teams was captured.

Of the five listed ethical principles, ‘Respect’ was chosen as the most important ethical principle (97.7%), while of seven listed ethical values, ‘Autonomy’ was chosen as the most important ethical value (88.6%).  Approximately 32% the respondents reported that they had experienced ethical challenges while working as part of a North-South research team in one or more of the following five categories: inter-team relationships, relationships with communities, relationships with ethics boards, relationship with funders, and training.  Further, of these 32%, 69.2% said these challenges arose due to differences between North and South ethical principles and/or values.

The results from this study highlights that ethical issues prevalent in North-South global population health research do not typically arise because the fundamental ethical values and principles are problematic.  Instead, many researchers refer to other problems such as the constraints of the complex institutional settings and diverse geographic domains in which global health research is conducted.

Learning Areas:

Ethics, professional and legal requirements
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines

Learning Objectives:
Identify and discuss ethical challenges that arise in global North-south research collaborations. Evaluate the efficacy of the dominant bioethics paradigm to deal with global North-South ethical challenges and issues.

Keyword(s): Ethics, Vulnerable Populations

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I was a co-principal investigator on the research project from which the material for this presentation is based.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.