Public Health Ethics: Mapping the Terrain

American Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 30 (2): 170-178, 2002

Posted: 3 Sep 2014 Last revised: 5 Sep 2014

See all articles by James F. Childress

James F. Childress

Independent

Ruth Faden

Johns Hopkins University - Berman Institute of Bioethics

Ruth Gaare Bernheim

Independent

Lawrence O. Gostin

Georgetown University - Law Center - O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law

Jeffrey P. Kahn

Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics

Richard J. Bonnie

University of Virginia - School of Law

Nancy Kaas

Johns Hopkins University

Anna C. Mastroianni

University of Washington - School of Law; University of Washington, Dept. of Health Services, School of Public Health; University of Washington, Dept. of Pediatrics and Department of Bioethics and Humanities, School of Medicine

Jonathan D. Moreno

University of Pennsylvania

Phillip Nieburg

Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)

Date Written: June 1, 2002

Abstract

Public health ethics, like the field of public health it addresses, traditionally has focused more on practice and particular cases than on theory, with the result that some concepts, methods, and boundaries remain largely undefined. This paper attempts to provide a rough conceptual map of the terrain of public health ethics.

Public health ethics, like the field of public health it addresses, traditionally has focused more on practice and particular cases than on theory, with the result that some concepts, methods, and boundaries remain largely undefined. This paper attempts to provide a rough conceptual map of the terrain of public health ethics. We begin by briefly defining public health and identifying general features of the field that are particularly relevant for a discussion of public health ethics.

Public health is primarily concerned with the health of the entire population, rather than the health of individuals. Its features include an emphasis on the promotion of health and the prevention of disease and disability; the collection and use of epidemiological data, population surveillance, and other forms of empirical quantitative assessment; a recognition of the multidimensional nature of the determinants of health; and a focus on the complex interactions of many factors — biological, behavioral, social, and environmental in developing effective interventions.

Keywords: public health, ethics, theory, practice, conceptual map

Suggested Citation

Childress, James F. and Faden, Ruth and Bernheim, Ruth Gaare and Gostin, Lawrence O. and Kahn, Jeffrey P. and Bonnie, Richard J. and Kaas, Nancy and Mastroianni, Anna C. and Moreno, Jonathan D. and Nieburg, Phillip, Public Health Ethics: Mapping the Terrain (June 1, 2002). American Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 30 (2): 170-178, 2002. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2490628

James F. Childress

Independent ( email )

Ruth Faden

Johns Hopkins University - Berman Institute of Bioethics ( email )

United States

Ruth Gaare Bernheim

Independent ( email )

Lawrence O. Gostin

Georgetown University - Law Center - O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States
202-662-9038 (Phone)
202-662-9055 (Fax)

Jeffrey P. Kahn

Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics ( email )

1809 Ashland Ave
Baltimore, MD 21205
United States
410-614-5679 (Phone)

Richard J. Bonnie

University of Virginia - School of Law ( email )

580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

Nancy Kaas

Johns Hopkins University ( email )

Baltimore, MD 20036-1984
United States

Anna C. Mastroianni (Contact Author)

University of Washington - School of Law ( email )

William H. Gates Hall
Box 353020
Seattle, WA 98105-3020
United States

HOME PAGE: https://www.law.washington.edu/directory/profile.aspx?ID=144

University of Washington, Dept. of Health Services, School of Public Health ( email )

Seattle, WA 98103
United States

University of Washington, Dept. of Pediatrics and Department of Bioethics and Humanities, School of Medicine ( email )

Seattle, WA 98195
United States

Jonathan D. Moreno

University of Pennsylvania ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

Phillip Nieburg

Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) ( email )

Washington, DC 20006
United States

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