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Good Decision Making in Real Time: Practical Public Health Ethics for Local Health Officials

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Date Developed: Unknown. Source: National Association of County and City Health Officials. Presenter(s): n.a.. Type: Online Course. Level: Intermediate. Length: 114 minutes.


Public health officials regularly balance competing ethical and professional obligations (e.g., efficiently but fairly allocating scarce resources, respecting individual rights while safeguarding the public’s health, protecting underserved and marginalized communities while engaging and sharing information in a transparent manner, and ensuring data confidentiality and individual privacy while conducting surveillance). The field of public health ethics provides a theoretical basis and practical frameworks for addressing challenges that commonly arise in public health practice. Because of the ethical challenges that public health officials face, there is an increasing need to demonstrate competence in public health ethics and an interest in public health ethics training. In order to address this need, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) developed a Web-on-Demand e-Learning module, Good Decision Making in Real Time: Practical Public Health Ethics for Local Health Officials. This training provides public health professionals with tools and practical examples to address ethical challenges that commonly arise in the practice of public health. The 1 hour 54 minute training presents the basics of public health ethics; examines the complementary role that ethics and law play in decision making; and reviews strategies for analyzing ethical issues, exploring the ethical dimensions of alternative courses of action, and justifying public health decisions. The training also presents an interactive case study that puts the learner in the role of a health official and walks through the steps of an ethical analysis using a real-life case scenario. This interactive case study illustrates how to use ethics frameworks, such as the Principles of the Ethical Practice of Public Health, developed by the Public Health Leadership Society, in the decision making process.

Learning Objectives

• Define the field of public health ethics.

• Describe how to use ethical frameworks.

• Describe a common public health ethics challenge.

• Describe the process of case analysis.

• State how public health ethics and law can work together to address ethical challenges and impact decision making.

• Describe tools for helping public health officials make ethically informed choices, including illustrating the value of the case study approach.

• List specific ways to integrate ethical considerations in the day-to-day decision-making in public health departments.

• Promote health improvement, wellness, and disease prevention in cooperation with patients, communities, at-risk populations, and other members of an inter-professional team of health care providers.

Special Instructions

To access this content, register on the NACCHO site, add the chosen sections to your shopping cart (no charge), and use back button to access the content list. It is also available in TRAIN at <>.

This project is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under grant number UE8MC25742; MCH Navigator for $225,000/year. This information or content and conclusions are those of the author and should not be construed as the official position or policy of, nor should any endorsements be inferred by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government.