Applying Public Health Ethics to Current Events

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Teaching Strategy Description:

Students examine theories of public health ethics and their application to population health scenarios and consider how promotion of health equity may conflict with individual or group rights.  In seminar, they apply public health decision-making frameworks and principles of relational ethics to current situations, such as the Ebola outbreak in 2014, including universal screening and quarantine measures and mandatory immunization requirements for health care providers.

The scenarios from the National Collaborating Centre for Healthy Public Policy and the Canadian Nurses Association (see Resources) can be adapted for class discussion and application of principles.

Teaching Context:

  • Fourth year Community Health Nursing Seminars


Baylis, S., Kenny, N.P., & Sherwin, S. (2008). A relational account of public health ethics. Public Health Ethics, 1(3), 196-209.

Canadian Nurses Association. (August 2008). Ethics in practice for Registered Nurses: Nurses’ Ethical Considerations in a Pandemic or other Emergency.  Retrieved from:

Canadian Nurses Association. (April 2009). Ethics in practice for Registered Nurses:  Social Justice in Practice. Retrieved from content/pdf-en/ethics_in_practice_april_2009_e.pdf.

Canadian Nurses Association (2010). Social Justice – A means to an end, an end itself. (2nd Edition of the Social Justice Gauge. Retrieved from

MacDonald, M. (2013). Ethics of public health.  In J.L. Storch, P. Rodney & R. Starzomski, (Eds.) Toward a Moral Horizon: Nursing Ethics for Leadership and Practice. Toronto, ON: Pearson.

National Collaborating Centre for Healthy Public Policy. (March 2010). Ethical questions during a pandemic: Case Studies. Retrieved from


Submitted by:  Susan Duncan, Thompson Rivers University

Indicator(s): 1.2, 1.3, 1.4