A code of ethical conduct for the public health profession

Ulrich Laaser, Peter Schröder-Bäck, Eliudi Eliakimu, Katarzyna Czabanowska, The One Health Global Think-Tank for Sustainable Health & Well-being (GHW-2030)

Abstract

Aim: Agreeing on a Code of Ethical Conduct is an essential step in the formation and definition of a public health profession in its own right. In this paper we attempt to identify a limited number of key ethical principles to be reflected as professional guidance.

Methods: We used a consensus building approach based on narrative review of pivotal literature and theoretical argumentation in search for corresponding terms and - in a second step - attempted to align them to a limited number of key values. The resulting draft code of ethical conduct was validated employing a framework of the Council of Europe and reviewed in two quasi Delphi rounds by members of a global think tank.

Results: The alignment exercise demonstrated the acceptability of five preselected key principles: solidarity, equity, efficiency, respect for autonomy, and justice whereas three additional principles were identified during the discussion rounds: common good, stewardship, and keeping promises.

Conclusions: In the context of emerging and re-emerging diseases as well as increase in lifestyle-related diseases, the proposed Code of Ethical Conduct may serve as a mirror which public health professionals will use to design and implement public health interventions. Future public health professional chambers or an analogous structure should become responsible for the acknowledgement and enforcement of the Code.

 

Keywords

code of ethics, moral obligations, principle-based ethics, professional standards, public health profession, population ethics, societal responsibility, utilitarian ethics.

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DOI: 10.4119/UNIBI/SEEJPH-2017-177

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