Can I check that my practice is ethical?
Yes! Independent ethical review (or ethical oversight) of health promotion research and action supports the integrity of our work in pursuit of health equity.Ethics approval is external validation that proposed research and evaluation work is undertaken within an ethical framework. The ethics approval process is one way that recipient communities of health promotion initiatives can be confident that they are respected and protected, and possible risk, burden, inconvenient or possible breach of privacy have been considered, minimised and deemed acceptable (1,2).
Do I need ethical approval?
You will usually need ethical approval if your health promotion project involves evaluation, epidemiological or qualitative research.
Some projects, organisations and funders will require that you have ethics approval and you can check with your organisation/funder. If your project is a research project and/or you are planning to publish the outcomes of your project, you will require ethical approval.
As health promotion practitioners we often collect data to monitor the quality of our work (eg. participant satisfaction surveys, demographics of attendees etc.). This is sometimes considered Quality Assurance. Whilst we are not required to obtain ethics approval for quality assurance activities, you may want to consider doing so. The approval process can provide the following:
- External validation that your project is following ethical principles for the community you are working with
- External review of your evaluation framework, and
- The option to publish the results of your project – even if it is later down the track
Community consultation and ongoing communication is imperative for ethical health promotion practice. While some consultation can occur before ethical approval, more recently practitioners are seeking ethical approval prior to the development of the project to check the consultation process is ethical, and to allow the consultation process to be reported.
Consider ethical oversight and the ethics approval process as an opportunity!
How AHPA can support you? (Providing ethical advice)
AHPA is currently conducting a pilot project to evaluate the process required to provide ethical advice to health promotion organisations and practitioners across Australia. Ultimately, we are aiming to develop a mechanism to provide organisations with ethical oversight for projects, where access to a Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) is usually difficult. We’ve recruited a small number of organisations who usually find it difficult to access a HREC and looking to build staff capacity for ethical practice. Click HERE for more information and stay tuned to AHPA newsletters for project updates.
Who can I submit an ethics application to?
If you work for an NGO or community-based organisation and don’t have access to an ethical approval process through your organisation, there may be opportunity to partner with other organisations that do have this process established (eg. government organisations, universities etc.).
If you are interested in partnering with an organisation but not sure where to start, the AHPA ethics project team may be able to assist. Please get in touch via the details below.
Contact the AHPA Health Promotion Ethics Project
For questions about the Health Promotion Ethics Project please contact:
Dr Krysten Blackford
Chair, HPEP Working Group
08 9266 2751
Literature, resources & support
- 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
- Gelling, L.H. (2016). Applying for ethical approval for research: The main issues. Nursing Standard, 30(20): 40-44. doi 10.7748/ns.30.20.40.s46