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Study Examined Ethical Issues in Epidemiology

New paper that examines the ethical challenges present in Epidemiology is co-authored by WayWay M. Hlaing, Ph.D., Professor of Epidemiology and Population Sciences in the Department of Public Health Sciences (DPHS) at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

The study, "Current Ethical and Social Issues in Epidemiology," was published in the Annals of Epidemiology in February 2023. The paper was a product of the panel discussion from the American College of Epidemiology (ACE) 2021 meeting with the theme "From Womb to Tomb: Insights from Health Emergencies." 

As the Chair of the Ethics Committee of ACE, Dr. Hlaing, and the committee sponsored the panel session in response to the ethical issues raised by the COVID-19 epidemic and the release of the third edition of the seminal work, Ethics and Epidemiology by Dr. Steven S. Coughlin. 

WayWay Hlaing, Ph.D.

The ethical principles that epidemiologists may encounter in conducting their research have been discussed in detail in the ACE ethics guidelines.1 The field of epidemiology has evolved so much since the publication of the ethics guidelines in 2020. Thus, Dr. Hlaing and her colleagues sponsored a panel to address the ethical issues not yet discussed in the guidelines. The panel and the paper addressed ethical and social issues of the COVID-19 pandemic and those relating to digital epidemiology, genetic epidemiology, and health informatics.

In addition to highlighting the emerging ethical issues, Dr. Hlaing and her co-authors also provided examples designed as a potential teaching tool in ethics, public health, and epidemiology curricula intended for epidemiologists in academic and non-academic settings.  

"We offered an integrated synthesis of the stages of the epidemiology research design and conduct with the ethical lenses that are most relevant in these emerging topic areas," said Dr. Hlaing, who is also the Director of the Ph.D. Epidemiology program at DPHS.

"The paper highlights the need to reflect critically on the impact of new digital sources of data and technologies on epidemiology research and public health practice cultivating these new areas of professional growth while improving population health," said Dr. Hlaing. “I want to acknowledge my co-authors: Jennifer Salerno (McMaster University), Steven Coughlin (Augusta University), and Kenneth Goodman (Institute of Bioethics and Health Policy at the University of Miami),” she concluded.


Written by Deycha Torres Hernández
Published on February 27, 2023