Skip to main content

Teaching Ethics in Schools of Public Health in the European Region: Findings from a Screening Survey


Public health ethics is gaining recognition as a vital topic for public health education. The subject was highlighted in a Delphi survey of future priorities of member schools of The Association of Schools of Public Health in the European Region (ASPHER). We conducted a survey of teaching public health ethics in Bachelors and Masters of Public Health programmes targeting all 82 ASPHER member schools in 2010/2011, as an initiative toward improving ethics education in European Schools of Public Health. An eight-items questionnaire collected information on teaching of ethics in public health. A 52 percent response rate (43/82) revealed that nearly all of the responding schools (40 or 95% of the respondents with valid data) included the teaching of ethics in at least one of its programmes. They also expressed the need for support, (e.g., a model curriculum (n=25), case studies (n=24)), which indicates an area for further work to be met by the ASPHER Working Group on Ethics and Values in Public Health. This survey will help guide development of this topic as a teaching priority in public health education in Europe.


  1. Faden R, Shebaya S. Public Health Ethics. In: Zalta EN, (editor). The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Available from URL: (accessed 4 January 2012).

    Google Scholar 

  2. Callahan D, Jennings B. Ethics and public health: forging a strong relationship. Am J Public Health. 2002;92:169–76.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  3. Thomas JC, Sage M, Dillenberg J, Guillory, JV. A code of ethics for public health. Am J Public Health. 2002;92:1057–60.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  4. Thomas JC. Teaching ethics in schools of public health. Public Health Rep. 2003;118:279–86.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  5. Gaare Bernheim R. Public health ethics: the voices of practitioners. J Law Med Ethics. 2003;31:104–9.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Maeckelberghe E, Schröder-Bäck P. Public health ethics in Europe - let ethicists enter the public health debate. Eur J Public Health. 2007;17:542.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  7. Association of Schools of Public Health in the European Region. Road map to 2015: Delphi Survey. Summary of the results. ASPHER. 2007.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Kessel AS. Public health ethics: teaching survey and critical review. Soc Sci Med. 2003;56:1439–45.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  9. University of North Carolina, Gillings school of Global Public Health. Tools for teaching skills in public health ethics. 19 May 2005. Available from URL: (accessed 31 October 2012).

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Rights and permissions

Open Access  This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made.

The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder.

To view a copy of this licence, visit

The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Aceijas, C., Brall, C., Schröder-Bäck, P. et al. Teaching Ethics in Schools of Public Health in the European Region: Findings from a Screening Survey. Public Health Rev 34, 10 (2012).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • DOI:

Key Words

  • Public health ethics
  • education
  • European Region