Public Health Ethics

Bioethics in Public Health and Health Policy

In association with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, faculty at the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics prepare future bioethics scholars, policy-makers, and public health professionals to not only provide expert advice regarding ethics and health policy, but to function as independent researchers conducting empirical research related to bioethics, public health and health policy.

Berman Institute faculty members conduct their research on ethical issues in six primary public health and health policy fields.

Foundations of Public Health
Berman Institute faculty, along with other national leaders, helped form the Foundations of Public Health Ethics, which specify frameworks and questions to be asked of a public health program or initiative before its implementation to aid in judging ethical acceptability. Berman Institute faculty members continue to extensively research Public Health Ethics, including the challenges faced by individuals studying community-based interventions. Berman Institute faculty members made Public Health Ethics education a priority, and are actively involved in preparing future researchers, policy-makers, and public health practitioners for the ethical issues they are sure to encounter throughout the course of their careers.

Researchers at the Berman Institute have worked at the state, national, and international levels to create response plans and propose principles for allocating scarce resources for Pandemic Influenza planning. In addition to facing specific challenges posed by a prolonged, pervasive disaster like a pandemic influenza, the faculty has contributed to All-Hazards Emergency Planning efforts nationwide. A focus on preparedness has led scholars at the Berman Institute to assist in the development of reasoned and reasonable response plans to Bioterrorism events.

HIV and the Ethics of Infectious Disease
When the HIV epidemic first entered the American consciousness, uncertainty and fear complicated appropriate treatment of HIV-infected individuals. Berman Institute faculty members were among the first to discuss the ethics of HIV Prevention, Treatment, and Research and contributed to the literature surrounding HIV in insurance, research, maternal health, and reproductive decision-making. Faculty members have also served on committees, Institutional Review Boards, and clinical trials addressing HIV, and, related infectious disease research.

Social Justice
Scholars at the Berman Institute have had an eye toward Social Justice for some time and have discussed the topic implicitly or explicitly in much of their work. Ruth Faden, director of the Berman Institute, co-authored the seminal Social Justice: The Moral Foundations of Public Health and Health Policy. In her work Dr. Faden explains, “a notion of social justice that went beyond the issues of distributive justice, micro-allocational questions of priority setting in medical care, or any number of questions centered on how one individual fares relative to some other individual.”

Womens Health
Berman Institute faculty members have spent a great deal of time researching ethical issues surrounding Pregnancy, Maternal Health, and Reproductive Decision-Making both broadly and in specific situations such as challenges faced by HIV-positive women. Faculty continue to research the ethics involved in Predictive Genetic Testing as it relates to informed consent, usefulness, and appropriate marketing. Fairness in Research is another ethical concern faculty are studying with regard to women’s health.

Vaccine Ethics
Ethical challenges are present at every stage of research, development, education and distribution of vaccines. The Berman Institute is partnered with the Johns Hopkins Vaccine Initiative in an effort to further research and discuss Vaccine Ethics. Through sound research, the Berman Institute is helping to form a foundation for the Development, Education, Distribution, and Utilization of Vaccines worldwide. Berman Institute faculty members work with the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization to inform the distribution of vaccines to children worldwide.  Faculty members have conducted considerable research surrounding Vaccines and Preparedness.

Genetics and Public Policy Center
Part of the Berman Institute, the Genetics and Public Policy Center works to help policy leaders, decision makers, and the public better understand the rapidly evolving field of human genetics and its application to healthcare. Studying the human genome will lead to a clearer picture of the role of genetics in health and disease, which in turn will help drive the development of new diagnostic tools and treatments. But the same technologies raise a host of ethical, legal and social concerns. To inform genetic policy decisions, the Center surveys public attitudes about genetics issues, conducts analyses of the existing regulatory landscape, monitors the transition of genetic applications into clinical practice, and posits options and likely outcomes of key genetics policies.

For more information on the Institute’s training in public health and health policy, visit our Education and Training section.

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