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Journal of Public Health Management & Practice:
doi: 10.1097/01.PHH.0000324564.64910.f5
Commentary

Principled Leadership in Public Health: Integrating Ethics Into Practice and Management

Bernheim, Ruth Gaare JD, MPH; Melnick, Alan MD, MPH

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Abstract

Public health officials frequently face ethical tensions and conflicting obligations when making decisions and managing health departments. Leadership requires an ongoing approach to ethics that focuses on two dimensions of practice: the professional relationships of officials developed over time with their communities and the ethical aspects of day-to-day public health activities. Education and competencies in ethics may be helpful in practice, by providing, at a minimum, frameworks and ethical principles to help structure analysis, discussion, and decision making in health departments and with community stakeholders. Such a “practical ethics” approach in public health practice begins with a focus on public health values and an agency mission statement and integrates ethics throughout the organization by, for example, setting performance measures based on them. Using a case in emergency preparedness, this article describes ways in which ethical frameworks and the Code of Ethics can be used as tools for education and to integrate ethics into agency activities and programs.

© 2008 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.

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