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Public Health Ethics: Global Cases, Practice, and Context

(6 reviews)

Drue H. Barrett, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Angus Dawson, The University of Sydney

Leonard W. Ortmann, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Pub Date: 2016

ISBN 13: 9783319238470

Publisher: Independent

Language: English

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Reviewed by Deb Merrigan, Instructor, Century College on 6/5/19

This textbook covers many broad areas of ethical issues and dilemmas surrounding public health. While no glossary is provided, the index holds a wide selection of topics covered and where they can be found within the book. read more


Reviewed by Emmanuel Clottey, Associate Professor, Louisiana State University Shreveport on 4/9/19

I find the text very comprehensive. Section I gives an introduction to public health ethics for those who may be new to the subject. This is good because it gives the student an understanding of public health ethics even if they did not have any... read more


Reviewed by Soumyadeep Mukherjee, Assistant Professor, Rhode Island College on 11/28/18

I thought that this book navigates a challenging and often "vague" subject of Public Health ethics rather well. At the very outset, it lays out why the intersection of public health and ethics can be a slippery slope. The author also emphasizes... read more


Reviewed by Rebecca Heick, Visiting Assistant Professor, Augustana College on 11/16/18

While the text does a nice job of covering a great diversity of cases, there are some gaps in content that are important to note. The text does not provide case examples that highlight genetics (a key field that will continue to gain importance in... read more


Reviewed by Angela Weisbrod, Adjunct Professor of Nursing, Winona State University on 5/21/18

The text is extremely comprehensive covering pertinent issues both in the US and around the Globe read more


Reviewed by Benjamin Silverberg, Assistant Professor/Clinician, West Virginia University on 5/21/18

As mentioned in the introduction (and, of course, the title), the text's focus on cases. Thus, it is sometimes a little lacking in detailing a theoretical approach to ethics (despite a well-written first chapter and introductory blocks in most... read more


Table of Contents

Section I Introduction to Public Health Ethics

  • 1 Public Health Ethics: Global Cases, Practice, and Context
  • 2 Essential Cases in the Development of Public Health Ethics

Section II Topics in Public Health Ethics

  • 3 Resource Allocation and Priority Setting
  • 4 Disease Prevention and Control
  • 5 Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
  • 6 Environmental and Occupational Public Health
  • 7 Vulnerability and Marginalized Populations
  • 8 International Collaboration for Global Public Health
  • 9 Public Health Research


About the Book

Introducing public health ethics poses two special challenges. First, it is a relatively new field that combines public health and practical ethics. Its unfamiliarity requires considerable explanation, yet its scope and emergent qualities make delineation difficult. Moreover, while the early development of public health ethics occurred in a western context, its reach, like public health itself, has become global. A second challenge, then, is to articulate an approach specific enough to provide clear guidance yet sufficiently flexible and encompassing to adapt to global contexts. Broadly speaking, public health ethics helps guide practical decisions affecting population or community health based on scientific evidence and in accordance with accepted values and standards of right and wrong. In these ways, public health ethics builds on its parent disciplines of public health and ethics. This dual inheritance plays out in the definition the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers of public health ethics: “A systematic process to clarify, prioritize, and justify possible courses of public health action based on ethical principles, values and beliefs of stakeholders, and scientific and other information” (CDC 2011). Public health ethics shares with other fields of practical and professional ethics both the general theories of ethics and a common store of ethical principles, values, and beliefs. It differs from these other fields largely in the nature of challenges that public health officials typically encounter and in the ethical frameworks it employs to address these challenges. Frameworks provide methodical approaches or procedures that tailor general ethical theories, principles, values, and beliefs to the specific ethical challenges that arise in a particular field. Although no framework is definitive, many are useful, and some are especially effective in particular contexts. This chapter will conclude by setting forth a straightforward, stepwise ethics framework that provides a tool for analyzing the cases in this volume and, more importantly, one that public health practitioners have found useful in a range of contexts. For a public health practitioner, knowing how to employ an ethics framework to address a range of ethical challenges in public health—a know-how that depends on practice—is the ultimate take-home message.

About the Contributors


Drue H. Barrett Office of Scientific Integrity, Office of the Associate Director for Science, Office of the Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Atlanta, GA, USA

Angus Dawson Center for Values, Ethics and the Law in Medicine, Sydney School of Public Health. The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia 

Leonard W. Ortmann Office of Scientific Integrity, Office of the Associate Director for Science, Office of the Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, USA