Population Health Ethics

One strategic objective of the CIHR Institute of Population and Public Health (IPPH) is to foster the development and refinement of ethical frameworks for population health interventions in Canada and globally.

Population health ethics can be distinguished from traditional bioethics by its primary focus on: (1) populations rather than individuals; (2) a wide range of interventions that often occur outside of the health care setting; (3) prevention of illness and disease. Population health ethics also brings equity to the forefront, addresses deeply embedded (upstream) social determinants of health, and considers health issues as part of interconnected global systems. While some work has been undertaken to define frameworks and underlying principles for public health ethics, gaps in our understanding, conceptualization, and application of ethics to the field of population and public health remain.

In 2009, IPPH launched an initiative on population health ethics to support and stimulate discussion and debate about the ethical foundations of population health interventions. To date, this initiative has focused on three main activities: (1) an annotated bibliography of key literature in population health ethics; (2) a virtual journal club designed to bring together researchers, practitioners, and policy makers interested in this topic; (3) casebook in population and public health ethics.