Newly Published Oxford Handbook of Public Health Ethics Provides Sweeping and Authoritative Review of Field 

August 26, 2019

Representing the culmination of a multi-year scholarly effort, this month’s publication of The Oxford Handbook of Public Health Ethics provides for the first time a sweeping and authoritative review of public health ethics, with faculty from the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics taking a leading role in its creation.

The Handbook’s three editors include Jeffrey Kahn, Andreas C. Dracopoulos Director of the Berman Institute, and Nancy Kass, Vice Provost for Graduate and Professional Education, and Phoebe R. Berman Professor of Bioethics and Public Health at Johns Hopkins. Berman faculty wrote 23 of the book’s chapters and edited 11 of its 15 sections. Faculty from the Bloomberg School of Public Health wrote an additional 11 chapters.

While medical ethics has a rich history dating back thousands of years, an explicit focus on public health ethics is much more recent.  And as public health seeks to gain increasing benefits for populations—from improving diets and vaccination rates to reducing injuries and violence—critical questions that focus on how far the reach of public health intervention should go, and how to ensure that public health benefits are realized by all become increasingly critical to address.

Vexing ethics issues are inherent in all aspects of public health practice and policy. They exist in top-of-the-news stories like infectious disease outbreaks and vaccine hesitancy, health disparities, and in more routine assessments of population health needs, data collection, program evaluation, and policy development. They may be distinctive or shared across diverse fields, such as environmental health, nutrition programs and policy, injury prevention, communicable and noncommunicable diseases, and reproductive health.

“Public health practitioners and policymakers face questions of ethics routinely in their work, and they must navigate sometimes competing responsibilities to the public with other important values such as privacy, autonomy, and prevailing cultural norms,” wrote the editors, who also include Anna Mastroianni, Professor of Law at the University of Washington School of Law and Associate Director of the university’s Institute for Public Health Genetics.

The score of topics and range of perspectives the Handbook offers ensures it will be an indispensable guide to the state of public health ethics today, both in the United States and globally, and a valuable resource for practitioners, policymakers, researchers, scholars and students.

The Handbook provides an authoritative review of public health ethics in topics including genetics, violence, pandemics, global issues and many more. The 73 chapters are organized into 15 sections, each prefaced with an original essay by a leading scholar highlighting the ethics issues in that particular area of public health. Two sections are dedicated to the conceptual foundations, ethical tensions, and ethical frameworks of and for public health and how public health does its work. The 13 sections that follow are arranged topically, examining ethics considerations across the broad expanse of public health.

Chapters by Berman Institute-affiliated authors include:

Anne Barnhill

Claire Davis

Mike DiStefano

Ruth Faden

Jessica Fanzo

Gail Geller

Leslie Meltzer Henry

Nancy Kass

Carleigh Krubiner

Michelle Huckaby Lewis

Debra Mathews

Maria Merritt

Maggie Moon

Brendan Saloner

Andrew Siegel

Holly Taylor (completed contribution while on Berman Institute faculty, now at Dept. of Bioethics, Clinical Center, National Institutes of Health)

For more than a decade, the Oxford University Press’ Handbook series has published cutting-edge research by the world’s leading scholars across more than a dozen disciplines. Each volume offers an authoritative and state-of-the-art survey of current thinking in a particular subject area. The Oxford Handbook of Public Health Ethicsfills a critical gap, joining previously published Oxford Handbooks devoted to a wide range of related areas,including Bioethics, Clinical Research Ethics, Reproductive Ethics, Psychiatric Ethics, and Animal Ethics.

The Oxford Handbook of Public Health Ethicshas just been released in print by Oxford University Press. Individual chapters are also available online through Oxford Handbooks Online.