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Strengthen the Evidence for Maternal and Child Health Programs

Ethics and Professionalism

Professional Resource Brief

The National Center for Education in Maternal and Child Health at Georgetown University has put together this professional resource brief to assist the Title V work force in improving their knowledge and skills related to maternal and child health competencies. This collection of selected trainings, materials, and websites offers high-quality information about MCH Leadership Competency 3: Ethics and Professionalism.

Definition. Ethical behavior and professionalism include conduct congruent with generally accepted moral principles and values and with professional guidelines based on those principles and values. This definition includes general leadership ethics, such as honesty and responsibility, as well as ethics specific to the MCH population, such as reducing health disparities and behaving in a culturally competent manner.1


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Public Health Ethics
This website defines public health ethics; describes the goals and structure for public health ethics at CDC; and provides information about the Ethics Subcommittee of the Advisory Committee to the Director, CDC, ethics subcommittee documents, and other public health ethics resources and training materials.

Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (Bioethics Commission)
The Bioethics Commission, an advisory panel of the nation’s leaders in medicine, science, ethics, religion, law, and engineering, advises the President on bioethical issues arising from advances in biomedicine and related areas of science and technology. Resources include user guides, primers, teaching tools, and videos to support ethics education and facilitate integration of bioethics into traditional and nontraditional educational and professional settings.

Materials from MCH Digital Library

Bayer R, Gostin L, Jennings B, Steinbock B, ed. 2007. Public Health Ethics: Theory, Policy, and Practice. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Association of County and City Health Officials. 2014. Building a formal ethics infrastructure at local health departments (report). Washington, DC: National Association of County and City Health Officials. 14 pp. Registration or log-in required.

Furrow BR, Greaney T, Johnson S, Jost T, Schwartz R. 2013. Bioethics: Health Care Law and Ethics (7th ed.). American Casebook Series. St. Paul, MN: West Group Publishing Company. 624 pp.

Holland S. 2014. Public Health Ethics (2nd ed.). Cambridge, England: Polity Press.

Jennings B, Kahn J, Mastroianni A, Parker LS (eds.). 2003. Ethics and Public Health: Model Curriculum. Washington, DC: Association of Schools of Public Health. 267 pp.

Kass NE. 2001. An ethics framework for public health (full-text article). American Journal of Public Health 91(11):1776–1782.

National Association of County and City Health Officials. 2015. Building an ethics infrastructure in local health departments (fact sheet). Washington, DC: National Association of County and City Health Officials. 2 pp. Materials are free-of-charge, but require you to sign up and place in your shopping cart.

Public Health Leadership Society. 2002. Principles of the ethical practice of public health. [no place]: Public Health Leadership Society. Brochure (11 pp.), poster (1 p.).

Starr P. 2009. Professionalization and public health: Historical legacies, continuing dilemmas (full-text article). Journal of Public Health management and Practice 15(6, Suppl.):S26–230.

Thomas JC, Sage M, Dillenberg J, et al. 2002. A code of ethics for public health (full-text article). American Journal of Public Health 92(7):1057–1059.

Suggest materials for the MCH Knowledge Base.

Trainings from the MCH Navigator

How Ethics Serves Public Health. Date Developed: 2014. Source: National Science Board. Presenter: Arthur Caplan.Type: Video Lecture. Level: Introductory. Length: 10 minutes.

Facing Ethical Challenges—Dealing with Outcomes—Stories from the Field. Date Developed: 2009. Source: Northwest Center for Public Health Practice. Presenter(s): Harvey Kayman, MD, MPH.Type: Webinar Archive. Level: Intermediate. Length: 40 minutes.

Ethics in Public Health: A Closer Look at Current Issues. Date Developed: 2013. Source: State University of New York at Albany School of Public Health. Presenter(s): Bruce White, DO, JD.Type: Webinar Archive. Level:Intermediate. Length: 58 minutes.

Public Health Ethics Training Series. Date Developed: Unknown. Source: Southeast Public Health Training Center. Presenter(s): n.a.. Type: Online Course. Level: Introductory. Length: Self-paced.

Professionalism for Public Health Workers. Date Developed: Unknown. Source: Wisconsin Center for Public Health Education and Training. Type: Online Course. Level: Introductory. Length: Self-paced.

For more learning opportunities on ethics and professionalism, use this Automated Search on the MCH Navigator training catalog.


1 MCH Leadership Competencies.


Author: Jolene Bertness, MEd, CHES, NCEMCH
Reviewers: Olivia Pickett, MLS, MA, Rochelle Mayer, EdD, John Richards, MA, NCEMCH
August 2015; Updated October 2015

This project is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under grant number U02MC31613, MCH Advanced Education Policy, $3.5 M. This information or content and conclusions are those of the author and should not be construed as the official position or policy of, nor should any endorsements be inferred by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government.