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Planetary and Global Health Ethics

Course Number
5600 (Clinical Public Health)
Course Instructor(s)
Erica Di Ruggiero, Ross E. G. Upshur

Course Description

The state of population (public) health in many countries and indeed the state of health at a global level are of major current concern. Despite advances in medicine and medical care and massive growth of the global economy, health in the world is characterized by widening disparities within and between countries; lack of access to even basic health care for billions of people, the emergence of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, HIV and many other new infectious diseases such as COVID19; rising costs of commercialized health care; changing health demographics with ageing populations and massive increases in the incidence of obesity and diabetes and other non-communicable diseases. Climate change and environmental degradation related to human activity are exacerbating these adverse health trends. The causes of these health crises are multifactorial and complex and overlapping. The ideology lying behind the deliberately structured neoliberal global political economy is one central factor. Introspection and examination of our values and ways of life are required if we wish to understand what has led to these crises and their implications for health and medical research in the remainder of the 21st century. It is in this context, within which new waves of conflict over security and resources, food and water security issues, human deprivation and displacement of people will arguably be exacerbated, and epidemics of infectious diseases will continue to emerge, that questions arise about what global/planetary health ethics implies, whether this is needed as a distinct paradigm from the dominant inter-personal bioethics and public health ethics of today and how such a discourse and agenda could be pursued.

Course Objectives

At the end of the course, students will be able to:

  • Understand the substance and scope of ‘global/planetary health’ as distinct from international health
  • Discuss the dimensions of forces shaping global/planetary health
  • Identify the field of global/planetary health ethics
  • Interrogate the normative dimensions of global/planetary health ethics
  • Analyze ethical challenges raised by many critical global health issues

Methods of Evaluation

Participation 20%
Reading Reflections (x 2) 40%
Final Paper 40%