Code of ethics: Board of Health for Public Health Sudbury & Districts

Most professional and many special interest associations have codes of ethics or conduct to which their members must adhere. The purpose of these codes is to ensure, on behalf of the public who deal with the association’s members, that the association is safeguarding the standard of services being offered.

Likewise, local health agencies wishing to adopt or maintain a code of ethics should take certain steps to ensure their efficacy.

  1. The code must be adopted, or accepted, by the Board at a meeting of the Board.
  2. The code must be well and widely published and known by both Board and staff.
  3. There must be enforcement procedures arid a system of natural justice for those accused of violations. This would include:


This code of ethics states key principles of the ethical practice of public health. An accompanying statement lists the key values and beliefs inherent to a public health perspective upon which the ethical principles are based. Public health is understood within this code as what we, as a society, do collectively to assure the conditions for people to be healthy. We affirm the World Health Organization’s understanding of health as a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

The code is neither a new nor an exhaustive system of health ethics. Rather, it highlights the ethical principles that follow from the distinctive characteristics of public health. A key belief worth highlighting, and which underlies several of the ethical principles, is the interdependence of people. This interdependence is the essence of community. Public health not only seeks the health of whole communities but also recognizes that the health of individuals is tied to their life in the community.

The code is intended principally for the Board of Health for Public Health Sudbury & Districts and other institutions in Public Health Sudbury & Districts that have an explicit public health mission. Institutions and individuals that are outside of traditional public health but recognize the effects of their work on the health of the community may also find the code relevant and useful.

Principles of the ethical practice of public health

  1. Public health should address principally the fundamental causes of disease and requirements for health, aiming to prevent adverse health outcomes.
  2. Public health should achieve community health in a way that respects the rights of individuals in the community.
  3. Public health policies, programs, and priorities should be developed and evaluated through processes that ensure an opportunity for input from community members.
  4. Public health should advocate and work for the empowerment of disenfranchised community members, aiming to ensure that the basic resources and conditions necessary for health are accessible to all.
  5. Public health should seek the information needed to implement effective policies and programs that protect and promote health.
  6. Public health institutions should provide communities with the information they have that is needed for decisions on policies or programs and should obtain the community’s consent for their implementation.
  7. Public health institutions should act in a timely manner on the information they have within the resources and the mandate given to them by the public.
  8. Public health programs and policies should incorporate a variety of approaches that anticipate and respect diverse values, beliefs, and cultures in the community.
  9. Public health programs and policies should be implemented in a manner that most enhances the physical and social environment.
  10. Public health institutions should protect the confidentiality of information that can bring harm to an individual or community if made public. Exceptions must be justified on the basis of the high likelihood of significant harm to the individual or others.
  11. Public health institutions should ensure the professional competence of their employees.
  12. Public health institutions and their employees should engage in collaborations and affiliations in ways that build the public’s trust and the institution’s effectiveness.

Approved by the Sudbury & District Board of Health on June 20, 2002 (57-02)

This item was last modified on January 31, 2018