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Ethical Health Promotion

What is ethical practice in health promotion?

Ethical practice is the process of acting with merit and integrity, and promoting justice, beneficence and respect, for a morally right outcome via a morally justifiable process (1). As Health Promotion Practitioners we are in the pursuit of health equity (2) and as a ‘professional community for social justice’ (2-6), our health promotion practice needs to be ethical. Ethical values and principles for Health Promotion include a belief in equity and social justice, respect for the autonomy and choice of all people, and collaborative and consultative ways of working (7). The International Union for Health Promotion and Education (IUHPE), is the international peak body for our discipline and sets out clear ethical values for our profession.

Actions of a Health Promotion Practitioner

Ethical health promotion practice dia2

Ethics approval is a formal process that provides external validation that a specific project (including research and evaluation) is being undertaken ethically.

Ethical health promotion practice dia3


How do I develop my ethical health promotion practice capabilities?



How do I apply for ethical approval for my health promotion evaluation or research?



AHPA’s role in supporting ethical practice

To support practitioners to practice ethically, AHPA initiated the Health Promotion Ethics Project (HPEP). HPEP aims to advance the evidence-base for ethical health promotion practice. Preliminary research undertaken by the HPEP and published in the HPJA highlighted that health promotion practitioners in Australia require (1, 8):

  • a better understanding of what is meant by ethical practice,
  • professional development opportunities on ethical practice,
  • access to guidelines on ethical practice, and
  • access to a specialised human research ethics committee (HREC).

In response to the findings the HPEP Working Group is focusing on two areas:

  1. Providing opportunities to build AHPA’s capacity to lead conversations about ethical health promotion practice, and
  2. Facilitation of access to formal Human Research Ethics support for health promotion evaluation and research

Having a strong evidence base is an important element of ethical health promotion practice (9). Broadly the components of focus area 2 involve consideration of requirements, mechanisms and issues related to the establishment or facilitation of access to formal HREC support which may be facilitated through AHPA.

Read more about the project here.

Contact details:
Dr Krysten Blackford
Chair, HPEP Working Group
T: 08 9266 2751
E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Page citations

  1. Blackford, K., Leavy, J., Taylor, J., Connor, E., Crawford, G. (2022). Towards an ethics framework for Australian health promotion practitioners: An exploratory mixed methods study. Health Promotion Journal of Australia, 33: 71–82. doi 10.1002/hpja.466
  2. Mittelmark, M.B. (2022). The 70th anniversary of the International Union for Health Promotion and Education: Reflections on advancing our social justice mission. Global Health Promotion, 28(4): 112-114. doi: 10.14177/17579759211059033
  3. Calderwood, P.E. (2003). Toward a professional community for social justice. Journal of Transformative Education, 1(4): 301-320. doi 10.1177/1541344603257280
  4. Mittelmark, M.B. (2008). Health promotion: A professional community for social justice. International Union for Health Promotion and Education, 15(2): 3-61. doi 10.1177/1025382308090338  
  5. Bull, T., Rigg, E. & Nchogu, S.N. (2012). Does health promotion need a code of ethics? Results from an IUHPE mixed method survey. Global Health Promotion, 19(3): 8-20. doi 10.1177/1757975912453181
  6. Kreber, C. (2019). The idea of a ‘decent profession’: Implications for professional education. Studies in Higher Education. 44: 696-707. doi 10.1080/03075079.2017.1395405
  7. International Union for Health Promotion & Education. (2016). IUHPE Core Competencies and Professional Standards for Health Promotion. Core_Competencies_Standards_linkE.pdf (
  8. Reilly T., Crawford G., Lobo R., Leavy J., Jancey J. (2016). Ethics and health promotion practice: exploring attitudes and practices in Western Australian health organisations. Health Promotion Journal of Australia, 27(1):54-60. doi: 10.1071/HE15059
  9. Carter, S., Rychetnik, L., Lloyd, B., Kerridge, I., Baur, L., Bauman, A., et al. (2011). Evidence, Ethics, and Values: A Framework for Health Promotion. American Journal of Public Health, 101(3):465-72.