autumn 2021
HEL-3008 Public Health Ethics - 10 ECTS

Last changed 07.05.2021

Application deadline

Applicants from Nordic countries: 1 June for the autumn semester and 1 December for the spring semester.

Applicants from outside the Nordic countries: 1 October for the spring semester and 15 April for the autumn semester.

Type of course

This is an optional course for students at the Master's degree programme in Public Health. Course students may be admitted if total number of students do not exceed the regulated 30 number of students at the course.

Admission requirements

Admission criteria: The same as for the Master's programme in Public Health. See the programme page. Application Code: 9371 (Nordic applicants).

Course content

The course gives an introduction to key issues in public health ethics.

A major difference between (clinical) medical ethics and public health ethics is that in public health, many decisions are motivated by explicit utilitarian considerations: what policies will yield the greatest good for the greatest number of people? Therefore, a critical examination of utilitarianism is important in public health ethics.

Public health interventions are usually implemented by governments. The aim is to advance the health of populations. This population perspective creates inherent tensions between what benefits the population as a whole and the potential infringement of individual liberties. Attention will be given to core concepts in political philosophy, such as liberalism and communitarianism. Topics include claims of individual autonomy vs. the protection and improvement of public health, personal integrity and the collection of health information, ethical issues in epidemiology, health concepts and health promotion, research ethics: principles and guidelines.

Objectives of the course

The student should be able to identify, describe, reflect upon, analyze, and discuss central topics in public health ethics.

Knowledge and understanding:

  • The student should be able to explain relevant aspects of consequentialist and non-consequentialist ethics.
  • The student should be able to explain relevant topics in political philosophy.
  • The student should be able to describe different health concepts.
  • The student should be able to describe basic research ethical principles and rules of conduct.

General proficiency:

  • The student should be able to analyze ethical dilemmas in health promotion and prevention.

Language of instruction


Teaching methods

The teaching will consist of 2 on-campus classes of 2-3 days duration. On-campus activities are to include lectures, seminars, presentations and group discussions. Attendance to the on-campus classes is mandatory. In addition, teaching will be based on resources from the online learning management system. The classes will be held in English.

Information to incoming exchange students

This course is open for inbound exchange student who meets the admission requirements, including prerequisites. Please see the Admission requirements" and the "Prerequisite" sections for more information.

Do you have questions about this course?  Please check the following website to contact the course coordinator for exchange students at the faculty:


Obligatory assignment:

The students have to hand-in and pass one written, individual assignment before they can take the exam. Assignments shall be handed in as specified in the assignment instructions. The students can write the assignments in Norwegian, Swedish, Danish or English. The assignments are graded as approved or not approved. The obligatory assignments must be passed in order to take the final exam. Attendance to the on-campus classes is mandatory.


One individual home-based examination. The student must write a paper on a given topic, and the paper should should have an extent of 1800-2000 words. The students will be given four days to write the paper. The paper shall be handed in as specified in the exam text. Students can write assignments and examinations in Norwegian, Swedish, Danish or English. Grading scale: A-E equals passed, F equals failed. If a student fails the course, an examination re-sit will be organised. Students with valid absence from the exam will be offered a re-scheduled examination. See examination regulations.


Recommended reading/syllabus

Pensumliste for HEL-3008 Public health ethics
  • About the course
  • Campus: Tromsø |
  • ECTS: 10
  • Course code: HEL-3008