Ethical Issues in Epidemiological Research

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EthicalIssues in Epidemiological Research

EthicalIssues in Epidemiological Research

Epidemiologystudies the determinants and distribution of states or events relatedto health in a particular population and applies this research tocontrol the problems of health. However, there are ethical issues inthe practice of public health, epidemiological research, as well asin disease prevention and promotion. Public health ethics identifies,analyses and find a solution for ethical problems that occur inresearch and practice of public health. Ethics in public health alsoprotect the individual welfare in medicine as well as public welfare.The epidemiologic research result usually contributes to generalizedknowledge through revealing the disease cause by combining data ofepidemiology with data from microbiology and genetics (Bailey &ampHandu, 2013). The research also generalizes data by evaluating theepidemiological data consistency with the etiological hypothesis andprovide a ground to develop and assess the procedures of preventionand health promotion. Thus, the primary roles of epidemiology are toplan and carry out scientific research as well as apply thescientific knowledge in public health. This paper will define theethical issue in epidemiological investigation and practice of publichealth from epidemiological and clinical perspective.

Whencarrying out epidemiological research, epidemiologist usuallyencounters many concerns and ethical issues that need carefulconsideration. Some of such ethical issues arise in areas such asemergency response, surveillance and program evaluation. Surveillanceis a regular, continuing gathering, investigation, and interpretationof data with the timely sharing of this information to control andprevent the injury or disease. Investigation of the outbreak andemergency response are activities of public health carry out in anemergency or urgent condition due to an impending threat of health tothe public. Data collected under surveillance has privacy andconfidentiality concern due to technical advances such as utilizingthe internet to distribute information from the systems ofsurveillance and disease registry. Hence, this may result in loss ofprivacy and breaches of confidentiality harms. Such risks areunlikely to occur because public health professionals take necessarymeasures to safeguard the data confidentiality in the registries andsystems of surveillance such written policies, data encryption, stafftraining and using procedures for data disclosure andconfidentiality.

Therefive ethical guidelines for investigation of the epidemiology thatare used to study ethical issues in epidemiological research. Thefirst moral principle is informed consent, including communityagreement, individual consent, undue influence, selective informationdisclosure and inducement to participate. The second guideline ismaximizing benefit which involves communicating the result of thestudy, release of the result, not possible to deliver the result,training the health personnel from the local community and communityhealth care under the study. Minimizing harm is the third ethicalprinciple which involves doing wrong and causing harm, bad publicity,preventing groups from harms, sensitivity to various cultures andrespecting social more. The fourth principle is ensuringconfidentiality and privacy of the collected data (Bailey &ampHandu, 2013). Finally, the conflict of interest is the fifthprinciple which involves scientific advocacy and objectivity as wellas identifying the conflict of interest. Thus, any epidemiologicalresearch should follow all the five ethical principles. In a case ofviolation of any of the principle of the research, it is thenconsidered as having ethical issues.

Epidemiologicalstudies that have developed studies of observation also have severalhindrances because they attempt to submit applications similar to theone used by experimental studies. For instance, informed consent canbe cited as difficult to be employed in population surveys whichrestrict use of material banks that are biological and accomplishingthe studies in hospital background as well as generating data of thestudy to great databases. The informed consent of institutionsfocuses mostly on preserving the autonomy of the individual andpreventing exploitation of subjects. Every research dealing withhuman being must obtain the consents of the participants beforesetting research procedures. Home surveys, however, have mereconsents to conduct interviews. For example, when carrying outresearch among the population with a low level of literacy,participants get afraid to sign papers.

Theguidelines of epidemiology assert that surveys that present minimumrisks should be excluded from signing informed consent. Such study isconsidered to have substantial linkage in surveys, large databases,cohort study, and case-control with the collection of data fromprogram evaluation, interviews, everyday actions, outbreakinvestigation, and surveillance. When there is a restriction toutilize only biological materials accustomed in a bank implies thatit will be impossible to discover the diagnosing situations or theorigin of the evolving diseases that may put the population health atrisk. The hospital-based studies with information inclusion ofpatients` records are practically unfeasible. Besides, the use ofinformation that is usually recorded in the national databases suchas death information systems, birth information systems, andhospital-based systems create problems. For instance, to preserveconfidentiality and privacy, some bodies of government responsiblefor sustaining such systems represent public informationprivatization and issuing of norms and even controlling the work ofthe researcher.

Therefore,epidemiologist usually encounters many concerns and ethical issuesthat need careful consideration while carrying out epidemiologicalresearch. For instance, information collected from surveillance hasprivacy and confidentiality concern due to technical advances such asutilizing the internet to distribute information from the systems ofsurveillance and disease registry. Thus, the constraints of ethicsneed to be addressed to improve the patients’ care.


Bailey,S., &amp Handu, D. (2013).&nbspIntroductionto epidemiologic research methods in public health practice.Burlington, MA: Jones &amp Bartlett Learning