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Health Forum Online    The Psychologist's Source for C.E. Credits Online

Ethics in the Public Health Context

by Larisa Beckwith, PsyD, MPH 3 CE Credits

The Institute of Medicine, one of the National Academies advising the public and government on sound policy, defines public health as "what we, as a society, do collectively to assure the conditions for people to be healthy."  Public health, therefore, is focused on the health of the population rather than the health of the individual.  The patient-oriented ethics that comprise the day to day reality of the healthcare practitioner can come into conflict with public health practice and law in a variety of situations.  This course is designed to give the practitioner an overview of public health ethics, law, and policy, situations in which optimal patient care might conflict with the optimal societal good, and what constitutes public health ethics in comparison to traditional biomedical ethics.

Continuing education for this online course is offered through the following approvals:


  • HealthForum is approved by the American Psychological Association (APA) to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. HealthForum maintains responsibility for this program and its content.
  • HealthForum (ACE Provider #1156) is approved as a provider for social work continuing education by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) www.aswb.org, through the Approved Continuing Education (ACE) Program. HealthForum maintains responsibility for the program. ASWB Approval Period: (6/20/2017 to 6/20/2020). Social workers should contact their regulatory board to determine course approval for continuing education credits. Social workers participating in this course will receive 3 Ethics continuing education clock hours.
  • HealthForumOnline, LLC, SW CPE is recognized by the New York State Education Department's State Board for Social Work as an approved provider of continuing education for licensed social workers #0355
Course Sections/Outline:
  • Introduction/Relevance
  • Definition and Brief History of Public Health Law
  • The Role of Government
  • Interventions: Ethical vs. Legal Considerations
  • Ethical Challenges within the Public Health System
  • Creating a Fair and Just Public Health System
  • The Future of Public Health Ethics
  • Web-based Resources
  • References

Learning Objectives:

After completing this course, health professionals will be able to:
  • Define public health ethics and differentiate it from general medical ethics
  • Explain three constitutional limits to the exercise of public health power and name three relevant court cases
  • Identify at least two key global human rights issues that impact the practice of public health in every country
  • Discuss two or more challenges related to public policy formation in public health