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Canadian Journal of Public Health

, Volume 102, Issue 1, pp 4–6 | Cite as

Epidemiology and Bioethics: A Plea for Reconnecting With the Public

  • Simon M. OutramEmail author
Ethics in Public Health
  • 1 Downloads

Abstract

The author takes the position that both epidemiology and bioethics, as practiced within academic establishments, have largely although not entirely abstracted the public context of health and well-being from their respective disciplines. It is argued that by and large both disciplines have been highly successful at what they do. However, this success can in part be attributed to each limiting its ability to look beyond its respective academic niche and thus embrace challenges which are socially challenging, politically charged, and academically messy. This narrow focus has become self-serving and ultimately detracts from fundamental remits of both disciplines in protecting the public from harm. Furthermore, it may re-enforce the inequalities of research into health overall, whereby the greatest concentration of effort remains firmly focused upon those who already have the most. Currently marginalized approaches to each of these disciplines–such as social epidemiology, global bioethics, and critical bioethics–provide us with platforms that challenge mainstream academic epidemiologists and bioethicists to seek out and reconnect their expertise with questions that are more relevant to real-world situations.

Key words

Bioethics epidemiology public health 

Résumé

L’auteur avance que l’épidémiologie et la bioéthique, telle qu’elles sont exercées au sein des établissements d’enseignement, font de plus en plus abstraction du contexte public de la santé et du bien-être en général. Il fait valoir que ces deux disciplines ont connu un grand succès dans leurs entreprises respectives, mais que ce succès peut être attribué en partie au fait que toutes les deux limitent leur potentiel à leur propre sphère académique et, ainsi, s’empêchent de relever des défis sociaux difficiles, politiquement controversés et académiquement méandreux. Selon l’auteur, cette vision étroite est devenue intéressée et se détourne à la longue de la mission fondamentale des deux disciplines, dont le rôle consiste à protéger le grand public. En conséquence, l’auteur avance que cela peut renforcer certaines inégalités de la recherche en santé, laquelle concentre trop souvent ses efforts sur des groupes socialement et financièrement avantagés. Certaines approches marginales de ces disciplines–telles que l’épidémiologie sociale, la bioéthique globale et la bioéthique critique–sont des plates-formes qui pourraient pousser les épidémiologistes et les bioéthiciens des milieux universitaires à retourner à des recherches dont les enjeux touchent un plus grand public.

Mots clés

bioéthique épidémiologie santé publique 

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Copyright information

© The Canadian Public Health Association 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Novel Tech EthicsDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada

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