Academic journal article Iranian Journal of Public Health

Public Health Ethics Related Training for Public Health Workforce: An Emerging Need in the United States

Academic journal article Iranian Journal of Public Health

Public Health Ethics Related Training for Public Health Workforce: An Emerging Need in the United States

Article excerpt

Abstract

Background: Ethics is a discipline, which primarily deals with what is moral and immoral behavior. Public Health Ethics is translation of ethical theories and concepts into practice to address complex multidimensional public health problems. The primary purpose of this paper was to conduct a narrative literature review-addressing role of ethics in developing curriculum in programs and schools of public health, ethics-related instruction in schools and programs of public health and the role of ethics in developing a competent public health workforce.

Methods: An open search of various health databases including Google scholar and Ebscohost yielded 15 articles related to use of ethics in public health practice or public health training and the salient features were reported.

Results: Results indicated a variable amount of ethics' related training in schools and programs of public health along with public health practitioner training across the nation. Bioethics, medical ethics and public health ethics were found to be subspecialties' needing separate ethical frameworks to guide decision making.

Conclusions: Ethics based curricular and non-curricular training for emerging public health professionals from schools and programs of public health in the United States is extremely essential. In the current age of public health challenges faced in the United States and globally, to have an ethically untrained public health force is arguably, immoral and unethical and jeopardizes population health. There is an urgent need to develop innovative ethic based curriculums in academia as well as finding effective means to translate these curricular competencies into public health practice.

Keywords: Ethics, Public health Ethics, Competencies, Public health workforce, USA

Introduction

What is Ethics? The Webster dictionary defines 'ethics' as discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation. It can also be defined as norms for conduct that distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable behavior or alternatively as a method, procedure, or perspective for deciding how to act and for analyzing complex problems and issues (1). This latter portion of the definition gets to the applied aspect of knowledge of ethics especially in dealing with complex public health problems and making a systems change.

There are diverse branches of ethics such as bioethics (implications of technology affecting human life), medical ethics (which primarily deals with patient-provider relationships and conduct of medical research involving human subjects), research ethics, and business ethics (2).

Why do we need ethics? Ethics is important to us because without it our actions would be random and aimless. We need ethics to organize our goals and actions and to accomplish our values. In essence, ethics evaluates those actions, and the values that underly them. It determines which values should be pursued, and which should not (3). The need for ethics arises from the fact that different professions have to establish a moral credibility for their field. In our field this needs to be translated into morally acceptable conduct and efforts to resolve ethical dilemmas related to public health practice (4). There are primarily five sources of ethical standards, which we use in practice including the utilitarian approach, the rights approach, the fairness or justice approach, the common good approach, and the virtue approach. When an ethical problem arises an integration of these approaches can assist in ethical-decision making (5).

The ethics field in health is governed by various codes of ethics such as principles of medical ethics (6), international code of ethics (7), Coalition of National Health Education Organizations code of ethics for health educators (8), Society for Public Health Education code of ethics (9) and the American Public Health Association code of ethics for public health (10). …

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