Getting public health ethics into practice

Eupha section Ethics in Public Health

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionAcademicpeer-review



Ethics is the philosophical discipline that advises on decision making criteria when difficult choices are to be made. Research has shown over the last years that public health researchers and practitioners ‘must confront numerous ethical choices' but they ‘often feel ill-prepared to make the ethical trade-offs' and perceive a need for more education and support to make these decisions.' (Gaare Bernheim 2003) Other research has shown that schools of public health are more and more interested in teaching ethics. Yet, little ethical capacity is available to answer these needs. Schools of public health have expressed their need for support from ethicists and ethical working groups (Aceijas et al. 2012).

Issue: Not many initiatives or curricula are available that can be used and integrated into teaching programmes of schools of public health or in the continuous educational programmes of professional public health associations. Discussions and developments of ethical tools and curricula remain local initiatives. More discussions are needed how ethical reflection can best be offered for public health practitioners and researchers. Can ethical tools or frameworks be helpful to empower professionals in applying ethics in daily practice?

It is also not clear if philosophers and public health professionals always mutually understand each other and mutually expect the same things from each other. On the one hand, philosophical ethicists often remain in their ivory towers, on the other hand, public health practitioners expect readymade solutions or pathways for ethical solutions from philosophers. More interdisciplinary dialogues between philosophers and public health professionals are needed so that ethical reflection can be successfully applied and integrated into public health practice.


This workshop is run by practitioners and philosophers to give an opportunity to share experiences and to discuss with the audience. We are offering the experiences of two representatives of professional public health groups organized at different levels (national, local) who identified needs for ethics trainings and are involved in ethics education within their professional groups. Furthermore, two philosophers experienced in teaching ethics to public health programmes discuss controversial standpoints.


The workshop shall offer a forum to exchange (controversial) views on the best possible development and integration of ethical education in public health and to discuss with participants of the workshop how best ethics and public health can work together.

Added value

The EUPHA section on ‘ethics in public health' is eager to learn from the workshop in what direction also its work should evolve.

Key messages

Practitioners are interested in learning about ethical reflection, yet, the discussion of the question what practitioners and ethicists mutually expect from each other is still in its infancy

A continuous interdisciplinary discourse of ethics and public health is important so that ethics can deliver the theories, trainings and tools that are helpful for public health research and practice
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEJPH
PublisherOxford University Press
Publication statusPublished - 6-Oct-2015

Cite this