CALL FOR ABSTRACTS — APHA 2021 Annual Meeting and Expo


Meeting theme: "Creating the Healthiest Nation: Strengthening Social Connectedness"

Submission Deadline: Sunday, March 21, 2021

We invite submissions for individual paper presentations, posters, and coordinated panel discussions on topics concerning ethics and public health. You do not need to be a current member of the Ethics Section, or a professional in ethics, to submit an abstract.

The Ethics Section encourages submissions from academic researchers, public health practitioners, and current students. Abstracts that are framed to fit with the 2021 theme (‘Creating the Healthiest Nation: Strengthening Social Connectedness’) are encouraged, but all submissions addressing public health ethics are welcome. We recognize that the COVID-19 pandemic will form an ongoing backdrop to the 2021 APHA annual meeting, and in all abstracts on topics listed below and others, the integration of ethical issues with the pandemic experience are welcome. Moreover, many of the suggested topics below are couched as national or local issues within the United States; nonetheless, many if not all of them are also concerns of global public health, and we welcome abstracts that take a global or international approach. Finally, we welcome submissions discussing ways in which the Public Health Code of Ethics may provide both a conceptual and a practical resource for efforts to strengthen social connectedness.

  • Algorithms and Social Media: Friend or Foe of Connectedness and Public Health?
    This topic welcomes papers on the technologies of health communication, public health surveillance, and shaping public attitudes and behavior regarding risk and lifestyle. Also relevant are discussions of technologically mediated telemedicine in health care access and delivery.
  • Connectedness and Responsibility for Health
    How should the notion of “social connectedness” be understood and acted upon in public health? How does it differ from the social determinants of health? How is it related to what is often called “social capital”? Papers on this theme may address how connectedness can be deliberately preserved and enhanced by public health measures, or how it is an aspect of culture that is more of a background condition to which public health must accommodate itself. Proposals might also address the roles of public health practitioners in addressing frayed social connectedness, for example resignation in light of political pressures to alter public health science results. What are the practical limits on such roles? There might also be distinct obligations owed to public health workers, e.g., potential remedies to “doxing” or threats of violence against public health officials whose actions have become unpopular or politicized.
  • Health Policy and Public Health: Two Worlds or One?
    Papers comparing and contrasting the scientific, intellectual, ethical and practice orientations of the fields of health policy and public health. How are these differences important for population health? In ethics, how best to understand the utilitarian consequentialist perspective in relation to the human rights perspective? How can health policy rooted in commitments to social justice demonstrate the productive relationship between ethics and politics?
  • Housing and Food As Public Health Issues
    Social disparities in housing types, opportunities, and access may have a close link to the experiences of social connectedness.. Nutritional status and access to an adequate and balanced diet clearly have health implications. Wide disparities of nutritional access exist and “nutritional deserts” and food precarity are widespread. Papers focusing on housing may explore the link between economic inequality and housing policy as matters of structural justice and how that linkage affects connectedness and health. Papers focusing on food may explore how this situation is an issue of structural justice and how food and agricultural policy is linked to connectedness and human health. Finally, comparative papers comparing and contrasting ethical issues that arise in both housing and food access are also welcome.
  • Individual Freedom and Public Health: Biting the Bullet or Having It Both Ways?
    It is widely understood that freedom and health are both important ethical and political values. Papers on this theme may discuss the best way to describe the conflict or tension between freedom and health and the best way to resolve that conflict when it arises. Proposals might also address or practically examine when public health paternalism is morally justified. This is an area in which the subfield of public health ethics might make an important contribution through conceptual clarification and greater analytic precision. Proposals might also ask whether this characterization of the conflict is the most apt. For example, what are advantages and disadvantages of using other conflict descriptors (such as, current vs. future patients) to describe trade-offs?
  • Social Connectedness and Embodied Selves
    Papers on this topic may discuss the best ways to bring together an understanding of the social dimensions of human health and well-being with an appreciation of the importance and implications of human organic and material embodiment.
  • Social Connectedness, Responsibility for Health, and Identity
    The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated varied individual and social psychological responses to the ways in which the health of one person depends on the health of others. How is U.S. social discourse around health and responsibility changing as a result? While political conservative views were once known for defending personal responsibility for health, advocacy on the political right is now associated with refusal to wear masks. Meanwhile, a “Medicare for all” position suggests a new (or revived) discussion of what we owe each other around health on the left. How can public health ethics grapple with these questions. Papers may give practice or teaching examples. Empirical media or discourse analysis studies also welcome.
  • Structural Injustice and Social Identities As Determinants of Health
    Papers on this topic may explore the differences between notions and theories of distributive justice and theories of structural justice. They may also explore different implications for the relationship between ethics and the social science disciplines in future research and scholarship in public health ethics.
  • Urban/Rural Divide in America: Implications for Public Health
    Urban and rural areas are highly differentiated in America economically, culturally, and ideologically. Papers on this topic may discuss such questions as: Can a single notion of “connectedness” reach across these differences? Do social connections relate to health in ways that are importantly different in urban and rural settings?
  • Using the Public Health Code of Ethics to Guide Ethical Decision-Making and Analysis in Research & Practice
    Papers on this topic may showcase ways in which the code of ethics and other materials, such as case studies and work in other media such as the arts and film can contribute to the professional development and the core competencies of the public health workforce. Other papers may discussion how the Code of Public Health Ethics has been applied to particular issues, dilemmas, and decisions.
  • What Is the Ethical Basis of Social Connectedness?
    Papers in this topic area may focus on defining and critically analyzing key concepts such as community, solidarity, care, pluralism, equality, and privacy.
  • Other Topics
    In addition to the topics listed and described above, all submissions addressing public health ethics are welcome, and this category of Other Topics is designed to accommodate them. Some examples include:

          —vaccine resistance and hesitancy

          —moral distress in public health and as a public health issue

Student Submissions

Submissions by students are especially encouraged. If you are a student or were first author on the submission while a student, please note this in the 'Presenting Author and Awards Submission' section of the abstract submission page to be considered for an award.

Session Submissions

Coordinated panel sessions are also valuable, particularly by offering opportunities to examine topics in more depth. Each coordinated panel discussion may have up to four presenters, and should allow at least 10-15 minutes for discussion with the audience.

Each abstract in the panel must be submitted and accepted individually. After submitting each abstract individually, persons interested in proposing a coordinated panel should send a request for a coordinated panel to the Ethics Section Program Planner (contact information listed below) including an overall session title, rationale for and brief summary of the session, the moderator’s contact information (to ensure timely communications about the proposal), the individual abstract titles, their authors, and their APHA Confex-assigned ID numbers.

The Program Committee reserves the right to break session proposals apart and consider the individual abstracts separately without prior notification to the session organizer.

Continuing Education Credit

The Ethics Section requires all abstracts conform to the APHA Continuing Education requirements.

APHA values the ability to provide continuing education credit to physicians, nurses, health educators, veterinarians, and those certified in public health at its annual meeting. Please complete all required information when submitting an abstract so members can claim credit for attending your session. These credits are necessary for members to keep their licenses and credentials.

For a session to be eligible for Continuing Education Credit, each presenter must provide:

1) An abstract free of trade and/or commercial product names.

2) At least one MEASURABLE outcome. (DO NOT USE “To understand” or “To learn” as objectives, they are not measurable.) Examples of Acceptable Measurable Action Words: Explain, Demonstrate, Analyze, Formulate, Discuss, Compare, Differentiate, Describe, Name, Assess, Evaluate, Identify, Design, Define, or List.

3) A signed Conflict of Interest (Disclosure) Form with a relevant Qualification Statement. See an example of an acceptable Qualification Statement on the online Disclosure form.

Contact Mighty Fine at if you have any questions concerning continuing education credit. Please contact the program planner for all other questions.

Session Types

There are three session types:

  1. Oral sessions have 3-4 presenters, with each presenter typically speaking 15-20 minutes.
  2. Poster sessions/presentations are typically one hour (with attendees approaching the presenter at their poster throughout the hour).
  3. Round table sessions do not involve formal presentations, but rather in-depth discussions with attendees. In a round table session, each presenter introduces their topic to the general audience for 3-5 minutes, and attendees then select a table from among those presenters for 30-minutes of in-depth conversation and group interaction on the abstract topic. At the end of the 30 minutes, the moderator will ask attendees to select a new table. Presenters will typically have 2-3 different audiences during the 90 minute session.

If you wish to be considered for a round table session, please note this in the abstract submission under 'comments to organizers'. However, round table sessions are not guaranteed; accepted abstracts indicating preference for a round table session may be assigned to an oral or poster session.

Indicating “no preference” for the preferred presentation type will increase the likelihood of acceptance.

Thank you and we look forward to receiving your abstract!


Program Planner Contact Information:

Bruce Jennings