Am J Public Health 2013 May 20;103(5):938-42. Epub 2012 Sep 20.
Office of Surveillance, Epidemiology, and Laboratory Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, USA.
Objectives: We assessed expected ethics competencies of public health professionals in codes and competencies, reviewed ethics instruction at schools of public health, and recommended ways to bridge the gap between them.
Methods: We reviewed the code of ethics and 3 sets of competencies, separating ethics-related competencies into 3 domains: professional, research, and public health. We reviewed ethics course requirements in 2010-2011 on the Internet sites of 46 graduate schools of public health and categorized courses as required, not required, or undetermined.
Results: Half of schools (n = 23) required an ethics course for graduation (master's or doctoral level), 21 did not, and 2 had no information. Sixteen of 23 required courses were 3-credit courses. Course content varied from 1 ethics topic to many topics addressing multiple ethics domains.
Conclusions: Consistent ethics education and competency evaluation can be accomplished through a combination of a required course addressing the 3 domains, integration of ethics topics in other courses, and "booster" trainings. Enhancing ethics competence of public health professionals is important to address the ethical questions that arise in public health research, surveillance, practice, and policy.