APHA’s Ethics Section is reaching out to schools and programs of public health to better understand how ethics are taught in the classroom, and they need your help.

“We don’t really have any consensus yet that is obvious about what it is we should be teaching in public health when it comes to ethics,” said Daniel Swartzman during yesterday’s Annual Meeting session on “Expanding the role of ethics in public health education.”

The Section currently has a task force working to survey schools across the country on the components of their ethics curriculum and whether one exists at all. This past Monday was the first time the task force had met in person, and members have an ambitious goal of completing their survey by the end of 2017.

“I walked away really energized from this great conversation we had on this,” Swartzman said about the task force’s first meeting. Of course, surveying schools at all will be a bit of a Herculean task, he noted.

“It’s not the most salient issue when it comes to leaders of schools of public health,” he told attendees. Another problem is a lack of common language. For example, Swartzman teaches a class titled “Health Disparities” that is essentially an ethics course, but the word ethics isn’t in the title.

The school ethics survey will include such questions as whether the program or school requires MPH students to take a course in public health ethics. Are there electives? What are the course titles? How many credits can a student earn taking ethics courses? What topics are covered in ethics courses?

Swartzman said task force members hope to have an ongoing set of discussions with professors who are teaching ethics, report on the findings of those discussions and the survey, and then bring recommendations back to Section members. The ultimate plan is to examine public health ethics in both undergraduate and graduate programs.

Want to help? Email Swartzman and consider getting involved with the Section, which also has a task force looking to refresh APHA’s 14-year-old code of ethics.

“I very much appreciate any help that you can give us,” Swartzman said.