Teaching seven principles for public health ethics: towards a curriculum for a short course on ethics in public health programmes

P. Schröder-Bäck*, P. Duncan, W. Sherlaw, C. Brall, K. Czabanowska

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review



Teaching ethics in public health programmes is not routine everywhere - at least not in most schools of public health in the European region. Yet empirical evidence shows that schools of public health are more and more interested in the integration of ethics in their curricula, since public health professionals often have to face difficult ethical decisions.


The authors have developed and practiced an approach to how ethics can be taught even in crowded curricula, requiring five to eight hours of teaching and learning contact time. In this way, if programme curricula do not allow more time for ethics, students of public health can at least be sensitised to ethics and ethical argumentation. This approach - focusing on the application of seven mid-level principles to cases (non-maleficence, beneficence, health maximisation, efficiency, respect for autonomy, justice, proportionality) - is presented in this paper. Easy to use ‘tools’ applying ethics to public health are presented.


The crowded nature of the public health curriculum, and the nature of students participating in it, required us to devise and develop a short course, and to use techniques that were likely to provide a relatively efficient introduction to the processes, content and methods involved in the field of ethics.
Original languageEnglish
Article number73
Number of pages10
JournalBMC Medical Ethics
Publication statusPublished - 7 Oct 2014


  • Public health
  • Ethics
  • Education
  • Curriculum
  • Principle based ethics

Cite this