Ethical considerations for the design and implementation of child injury prevention interventions: the example of delivering and installing safety equipment into the home

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Abstract

Introduction

Public health ethics is a growing field of academic interest but ethical discussion of injury prevention seems to have received limited attention. Interventions that promise to be effective are not necessarily—without explicit justification—‘good' and ‘right' interventions in every sense. This paper explores public health ethics in the context of child injury prevention with the objective to initiate interdisciplinary dialogue on the ethics of child safety interventions.

Method

A framework of seven public health ethics principles (non-maleficence, health maximisation, beneficence, respect for autonomy, justice, efficiency and proportionality) were applied to an intervention to promote child safety in the home.

Results

Preventing child injury in the home is ethically challenging due to the requirement for the state to intervene in the private sphere. Non-maleficence and beneficence are difficult to judge within this intervention as these are likely to be highly dependent on the nature of intervention delivery, in particular, the quality of communication. Respect for autonomy is challenged by an intervention occurring in the home. The socioeconomic gradient in child injury risk is an important factor but a nuanced approach could help to avoid exacerbating inequalities or stigmatisation. Equally, a nuanced approach may be necessary to accommodate the principles of proportionality and efficiency within the local context.

Conclusion

We conclude that this intervention is justifiable from an ethical perspective but that this type of reflection loop is helpful to identify the impact of interventions beyond effectiveness.

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