The relevance of ethics in the European Union’s second public health programme

Nelly K. Otenyo


Aim: The objective of this paper was to investigate whether ethical values were explicitly identified in the Second Public Health Programme (2008-2013) of the European Commission.

Methods: A qualitative case study methodology of exploratory nature was followed. The data used were the summaries of the project proposals and Public Health Programme objectives and was retrieved from the publicly available Consumers, Health and Food Executive Agency database. Since the PHP was finalized during the study, the study only focused on the summaries of the fifty-five finalized project proposals while excluding the ongoing projects and those projects at the reporting stage. The full proposals for the projects are confidential and thus could not be retrieved. However, the project summaries were inarguably sufficient to conduct the study. Using a table, a content analysis method in addition to the ethical framework, was applied in order to analyze and categorise the project findings.

Results: The results unfold that, out of the seven ethical principles, only ‘equity’ and ‘efficiency’ were explicitly considered in eighteen projects and four projects respectively. Moreover, from the shared health values, eight projects identified aspects pertaining to ‘accessibility to quality health care’ while ‘solidarity’ was only discussed in one project. Lastly, the ethical aspects ‘ethics’ and ‘values’ were identified in three projects and in one project respectively.

Conclusions: From the results, there is a limited consideration of ethical principles within the projects. Therefore, future public health programmes could use this as an opportunity to emphasis on the inclusion and application of ethical principles in public health projects.




accessibility for quality health care, efficiency, equity, respect for human dignity, universality.

Full Text:


Cite this article


Beauchamp TL, Childress JF. Principles of biomedical ethics: Oxford University Press; 2001.

Callahan D, Jennings B. Ethics and public health: forging a strong relationship. Am J Public Health 2002;92:169-76.

Preston N. Understanding ethics. The Federation Press; 2007.

Mann JM. Medicine and public health, ethics and human rights. Hastings Center Report 1997;27:6-13.

Kass NE. Public health ethics from foundations and frameworks to justice and global public health. J Law Med Ethics 2004;32:232-42.

Commission E. White paper–together for health: A strategic approach for the EU 2008–2013; 2007.

Coughlin SS. Ethical issues in epidemiologic research and public health practice. Emerg Themes Epidemiol2006;3:16.

Gostin LO. Public health, ethics, and human rights: A tribute to the late Jonathan Mann. J Law Med Ethics 2001;29:121-30.

Resnik DB. What is ethics in research & why is it important. Research Triangle Park, North Carolina: National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences/National Institute of Health; 2010.

Commission E. Together for health: a strategic approach for the EU 2008–2013. White paper, IP/07/1571; 2007;23.

Schröder-Bäck P, Brand H, Escamilla I, Davies JK, Hall C, Hickey K, et al. Ethical evaluation of compulsory measles immunisation as a benchmark for good health management in the European Union. Centr Eur J Public Health 2009;17:183.

Tannahill A. Beyond evidence—to ethics: a decision-making framework for health promotion, public health and health improvement. Health Promot Int2008;23:380-90.

Sørensen K, Schuh B, Stapleton G, Schröder-Bäck P. Exploring the ethical scope of health literacy: a critical literature review. Alban Med J 2013;2:71-83.

Bowling A. Research methods in health: investigating health and health services: McGraw-Hill International; 2009.

Council Directive. Decision 1350/2007EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of Europe; 23 October 2007.

Commission. E. Guide for the evaluation for proposals for action grants and operating grants, joint actions; 2008.

Directorate-General for Health and Consumers: The Second Health Programme 2008-2013. Accessed 13 July 2015.

DOI: 10.4119/UNIBI/SEEJPH-2017-138

Copyright (c) 2017 Nelly K. Otenyo

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.