Public health is a major concern in the world today. The welfare of human beings has been put in the spotlight of major scientific research. As such, the research has emphasized on the need for public health ethics so as to ensure that people’s health is put into consideration. Professionalism within the public health sector has, therefore gained some renewed attention from various agencies.
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The need to have professionals who are well equipped with skills and knowledge in environmental health is thus of paramount importance to any nation. The following essay focuses on professionalism in environmental public health raging from the code of ethics, standards of practice, to ethical decision making among other core values.
Code of ethics
The code of ethics refers to the manner in which environmental health professionals are expected to conduct themselves while delivering their services to the public. These include the upholding of the rule of law through promotion of justice, accountability, maintaining confidentiality of the public and ensuring competent practice among health professionals (Dawson, 2011).
In Canada, The Canadian Institute of Public Health Inspectors (CIPHI) concerned with environmental public health is the only body that usually regulates and outlines the ethical conduct of health professionals in Canada. As such, the body usually deals with the welfare of people’s health by ensuring that the concerns are put into consideration while still engaging in the diverse world of knowledge and research.
Promotion of Justice
The promotion of justice among health professionals in Canada requires from every health professional to recognize the fact that every person has a right to fundamental rights of health regardless of their race or any other social distinction.
Additionally, Environmental Public Health Professionals (EPHPs) are obliged to promote fairness and equity as well as respect human rights in their different areas of research. With these attributes in mind, the welfare of the public is thus given priority by health agencies.
Accountability is a requirement among health professionals so as to ensure that they are held accountable and responsible for their actions. As such, a high degree of loyalty to CIPHI is paramount in ensuring that health professionals safeguard the interests of the public. These obligations have no exceptions or compromise as ignoring them would pose dire consequences to the public. Consequently, the impact on people’s health would be dire consequences.
Maintenance of confidentiality
Maintenance of confidentiality among health experts is another requirement within the code of ethics of the environmental public health. This requirement compels all health professionals within the public sector to safeguard the health secrets of any family or community through the privacy laws that have been established (Dawson, 2011). This ensures that people’s life secrets are protected and their privacy is respected by all health professionals within the country.
Competency is a key requirement among health professionals in ensuring that their knowledge and skills remain relevant to people’s health. As such, EPHPs strive to remain competent and up to date with the various developments in the world of environmental public health.
Competent knowledge and skills are vital in ensuring that their work and service to the public remain competitive and up to date with technological advancements.
The scope of practice has, therefore, been put in place to ensure that every health professional conforms to the standards of quality and competency in the field. The need to keep people fully informed with regard to health issues is paramount so as to ensure competency and delivery of professional services to the public.
Standards of practice
A Professional Standard of Practice can be defined as a specific level of performance where an individual must perform various professional tasks and responsibilities while maintaining some minimal standards below which the quality of work is unacceptable (Canada, 2008). As such, any professional activity or task must be performed at a minimum threshold so as to ensure that quality of the work is not compromised at all costs.
Standards will always provide values and a set of principles that must be observed while engaging in research. These standards ensure that professionals in the field of public health remain competitive and knowledgeable in handling pertinent issues within the field. They usually enlighten the public on what is expected of health professionals and also inform the latter of their responsibility and accountability.
These standards of practice serve to achieve the vision of health professionals enabling the professionals to make informed decisions with regard to the welfare of the public, ensure cohesion and conformity of all health professionals with the universally agreed requirements as well as provide a legal framework of understanding the code of conduct of these professionals. The standards include accountability, competency, ethics, application of knowledge, leadership as well as relationships standard.
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Accountability standards aim at ensuring that the health professionals conform to the legislative requirements by taking responsibility with regard to their actions (Frumkin, 2010). Additionally, health professionals are also obliged to assist in the development of rules and policies to govern their field and ensure consistent practice of all stakeholders.
With regard to competency standards, EPHPs maintain their proficiency and competency through advancements in research as well as taking regular training programs to advance their knowledge and skills. Additionally, health professionals are obliged to dedicate their time and resources in order to meet certain requirements that are set by the regulatory authority (Frumkin, 2010). These rules are aimed at ensuring delivery of quality services to the public which are in line with universal standards.
EPHPs must maintain their ethical standards which outline their responsibilities to the public as well as inform the public and other health professionals of their ethical commitments to environmental public health concerns. The professionals should also maintain and safeguard the information pertaining to the health of their clients.
Leadership standards compel health professionals to be role models with regard to their professional etiquette and participation in various community development projects. These requirements ensure that there is sharing and dispensation of knowledge and skills to the community and other groups of interest.
Development of adequate conflict resolution skills that are highly effective is paramount to any health professional within the public health sector. This portrays their ability to find effective and workable solutions in the event of a conflict.
Ethical decision making
Decision making within the environmental public health sector can be defined as the identification of conflicting values within a particular society which can be solved through the employment of a legal moral framework (Frumkin, 2010).
For instance, a law might be formulated by health professionals requiring all children within public institutions to wear leg guards while playing football. However, the parents might oppose the move by arguing that they reserve the rights to make rightful decision regarding the interests of their children.
The ability to recognize and acknowledge an ethical concern is paramount to any health professional who is equipped with knowledge and understanding of pertinent issues that a particular society faces. These decisions are made in steps which include recognition of the ethical problem or concern, identification of conflicting values and putting into consideration the ethical support towards the health program from the society. As such, improvement of the public health is an essential consideration while making decisions pertaining to the public welfare.
From the above discussion, professionalism in environmental public health is paramount to all health professionals, which is due to the fact that the public heavily relies on their services for a healthy life. As such, ethics and various standards of practice cannot be overlooked by the professionals. Should these factors be put into consideration, the results will be visible to everyone, and thus will ensure a healthy and productive nation.
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Canadian Institute of Health Inspectors. (2010). Continuing Professional Competencies Program. Canada: The CPC Working Group and Council of Professional Experience.
Dawson, A. (2011). Public Health Ethics: Key Concepts and Issues in Policy and Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Frumkin, H. (2010). Environmental health: From global to local. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
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