Ethics Instruction at Schools of Public Health in the United States

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Abstract

Objectives

A survey of US schools of public health was undertaken in 1996 and 1997 to obtain a general picture of public health ethics curricula.

Methods

An explanatory letter with a list of questions for discussion was sent to the deans of the accredited US schools of public health. The deans were asked that at least 1 individual at their school who "is most knowledgeable about ethics curricula" review the list of questions and complete an ethics survey contact form.

Results

Ethics instruction was required for all students at only 1 (4%) of the 24 schools surveyed, while 7 schools required ethics instruction for some students. Two of the schools had no ethics courses. Ethics instruction was required for all MPH students at 9 (38%) of the schools and for all doctoral students at 4 (17%) of the schools. Most of the schools (19 of 24, or 79%) offered short courses, seminar series, or invited lectures on ethical topics, and 23 (96%) included lectures on ethics topics in other courses such as health law.

Conclusions

Training programs at US schools of public health vary greatly in how much attention is given to ethics instruction. Model curricula in public health ethics should be developed to help fill this gap. (Am J Public Health. 1999;89:768-770)

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