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Public health ethics: teaching survey and critical review


  • Kessel, Anthony S.


The last decade has witnessed development of the new field of public health ethics, as well as growing emphasis on the importance of ethics education to both students and graduates of the health care professions. Using a topic-based interpretation of public health ethics this paper presents a questionnaire survey of the nature and content of teaching of public health ethics to medical undergraduates and public health postgraduate students in the United Kingdom. Completed questionnaires were returned by 76.9% (20/26) of medical schools and 76.7% (23/30) of institutions teaching postgraduate public health courses. Public health ethics was described as being taught in 75% of medical schools and 52% of institutions providing postgraduate education. However, in both types of location the content and nature of teaching was patchy and often minimal. If medical schools and postgraduate institutions are serious about improving the discussion and teaching of ethical issues in public health, there will need to be considerable investment and commitment, accompanied by creativity and imagination. In parallel, the debate about the meaning of, and approaches to, public health ethics needs to be broadened and enriched. The topic-based interpretation of public health ethics has limitations. Alternatives are explored and critically reviewed.

Suggested Citation

  • Kessel, Anthony S., 2003. "Public health ethics: teaching survey and critical review," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 56(7), pages 1439-1445, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:56:y:2003:i:7:p:1439-1445

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    References listed on IDEAS

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