Public Health - ethical issues

image of Public Health - ethical issues

The Nordic Committee on Bioethics organised a conference in Reykjavik in August 2010 to discuss ethical issues relating to public health. The speakers of the conference have contributed to this book, which offers wide multidisciplinary perspectives on themes around Individual Freedom and Public Health, Health Responsibility and Life Style, and Social Equality and Justice.



Social determinants and the health of populations

It is in a socio-economic context that a child is born. At conception, the socalled structural genome of the growing foetus is the result of contributions from the mother and father, and the final composition influences the future health of the child (National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, 2010). In addition, despite living in the sterile environment of the womb, all through the pregnancy the foetus is exposed to diverse influences that may impact on its growth and later adult health. Such influences may include but are not limited to prenatal infections (e.g., malaria, rubella and cytomegalovirus), environmental toxic exposures (e.g., mercury, lead, and organophosphate insecticides), drugs, alcohol, and domestic violence (National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, 2007). The earlier the impact of noxious stimuli, the greater is the potential damage on the growing brain, and later adult health. For example, babies with low birth weight as a result of a range of negative influences during pregnancy have an increased lifetime risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and learning difficulties (Shonkoff, Boyce and McEwen, 2009).


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