Public health professionals, particularly those in state and local health departments, do not always have clear understandings of their roles related to politically controversial public health topics. A process of consensus development among public health professionals that considers the best available evidence may be able to guide decision making and lay out an appropriate course of action.
In May 2020, a group of maternal and child health and family planning professionals working in health departments, representatives of schools of public health, and members of affiliated organizations convened to explore values and principles relevant to health departments' engagement in abortion and delineate activities related to abortion that are appropriate for health departments. The convening followed a structured consensus process that included multiple rounds of input and opportunities for feedback and revisions.
Convening participants came to consensus on principles to guide engagement in activities related to abortion, a set of activities related to abortion that are appropriate for health departments, and next steps to support implementation of such activities.
The experience of the convening indicates that consensus processes can be feasible for politically controversial public health topics such as abortion.