Ethics and Public Health (BETH5203)


This unit provides students with an overview of the ethical and political issues that underlie public health and public health research. The unit introduces key concepts in public health ethics including liberty, utility, justice, paternalism, solidarity and reciprocity, and introduces students to different ways of reasoning about the ethics of public health. A critical history of public health and an examination of public health law provide important context. Students also explore the ethical dimensions of central public health problems, including modifying lifestyles, managing communicable diseases, screening and overdiagnosis, researching communities, responding to global health challenges and using evidence. Throughout, the emphasis is on learning to make sound arguments about the ethical aspects of public health policy, practice and research. Most learning occurs in the context of five teaching intensives, which are highly interactive and focus on the development and application of reasoning skills.

Our courses that offer this unit of study

Further unit of study information


5x8hr Intensives; or Distance Education (online).


5xOnline Quiz (50%); 1x2500wd essay (50%)


Students are provided with a list of readings (in digital format).

Faculty/department permission required?


Unit of study rules



Additional Information

Prerequisites: A three-year undergraduate degree in science; medicine; nursing; allied health sciences; philosophy/ethics; sociology/anthropology; history; or other relevant field; or by special permission.

Study this unit outside a degree

Non-award/non-degree study

If you wish to undertake one or more units of study (subjects) for your own interest but not towards a degree, you may enrol in single units as a non-award student.

Cross-institutional study

If you are from another Australian tertiary institution you may be permitted to underake cross-institutional study in one or more units of study at the University of Sydney.