Online Program

Establishing and Revising a Code of Ethics for Public Health Professionals: Questions to be Addressed

Tuesday, November 3, 2015 : 12:30 p.m. - 12:50 p.m.

Marc D. Hiller, MPH, DrPH, Department of Health Management and Policy, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH
Daniel Swartzman, JD, MPH, Department of Public Health Sciences, Loyola University Chicago, Maywood, IL
Public health ethics remains a broad area of increasing interest over decades as the field of public health practice has incrementally acknowledged its explicit importance and relevance. Surveys have assessed and reported a range of ethically-based attitudes and practices held by public health professionals. Public health ethicists have promoted APHA to promulgate an ethics code considerably before the Pubic Health Leadership Society formulated the first formal "Code of Ethics for Public Health." This Code was adopted subsequently by APHA (though it had not formally been a part of its creation). As the Code appeared to be oriented to public health organizations versus individual public health professionals, within a few years, Wynia and Hiller created an "Ethics Oath" designed for individual public health professionals to be bound upon their entry into practice upon receiving their public health degree. Overlapping these activities, a rather small group of ethicists formed what was known as APHA's "Special Interest Group (SPIG) on Ethics that allowed APHA members holding a primary interest in ethics to plan and engage in a small number of scientific sessions on topics of common interest at the Association's annual meetings. However, even the SPIG opted not to become fully engaged in Association policies. As the SPIG recently gained full "Section" status, it is now posited to become more engaged in a wider, more significant manner in APHA affairs.

While a core tenet of established professions is having an established code of ethics, the authors seek to identify and explore the major obstacles that have contributed to why the public health “profession” continues to face ongoing difficulty in this endeavor. Additionally, the authors posit critical elements that ought to be considered in developing, or revising, a universally accepted, useful and meaningful revised code of ethics for public health. Their findings provide a template for advancing deliberations given the critical role of ethics in public health decision-making.

Learning Areas:

Administration, management, leadership
Ethics, professional and legal requirements
Public health or related organizational policy, standards, or other guidelines
Systems thinking models (conceptual and theoretical models), applications related to public health

Learning Objectives:
Identify normative ethical principles to guide public health and its practice. Analyze obstacles to formulating a code of ethics for public health. Identify questions that require resolution to develop/revise a code of ethics for public health.

Keyword(s): Ethics, Practice Guidelines

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been teaching public health ethics for 36 years, published in the field and a leader in the Ethics Section of APHA.
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.