MSc International Disaster Management

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Ethics, Human Rights and Health

Course unit fact file
Unit code HCRI72000
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Full year
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Public health as an approach has an affirmative obligation to protect and promote the health of people and reduce the social disparities and inequities within populations. This module explores the principles of ethics and human rights in relation to public health policies, programmes and practice, and humanitarian interventions, through a focus on issues such as conflict and displacement, reproductive and sexual health, HIV/AIDS and food insecurity. The 8 individual sessions and associated discussions provide students the opportunity to re-think the ethical and moral foundations of their every-day public health practice.


The unit aims to: 

  • Develop students' knowledge and understanding of the complex and contested principles of health care ethics and human rights, and their impact on public health policies, programs, and practice.
  • Equip students with the analytical tools and critical perspectives to identify and evaluate ethical dilemmas related to gender, sexuality, displacement, power, and foreign-led health care delivery in conflict areas.
  • Encourage students to reflect on their own values and beliefs, and engage in collaborative problem-solving to develop ethical solutions to public health issues.
  • Foster students' capacity to apply ethical frameworks to diverse contexts and cultures, and to communicate complex ethical concepts effectively to diverse audiences. 


Week 1 Public Health & Human Rights: An Introduction 

Week 2 Conflict, Displacement and Health

Week 3 Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights

Week 4 HIV/AIDS, Human Rights and Public Health

Week 5 Healthcare to prisoners: ethical and human rights dilemmas

Week 6 Food Security, Ethics and Human Rights 

Week 7 Public Health and Ethics

Week 8 Ethical dilemmas of foreign-led health care delivery

Teaching and learning methods

Online pre-recorded lectures, asynchronous material and discussion board activities provide students with current information on ethics, human rights and healthcare. 

Lectures are offered as multimedia presentations and asynchronous material to widen perspectives and to stimulate thinking. By being asynchronous, students are able to study at their own pace to maximise learning.  

The Online discussion board provides a platform for students to work together to achieve the learning outcomes through reflection, knowledge exchange and experience-sharing among peers. Students are expected to contribute to the discussion forums by responding to questions, providing new information, describing relevant experience or sharing opinions about the topic, and discussing the topic with the support of literature. Students are encouraged to challenge each other in a constructive way, so as to promote intellectual stimulation.  

Knowledge and understanding

  • Demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the contested principles of health care ethics and human rights and their impact on health policy, program, and practice.
  • Identify and explain the ethical dilemmas related to HIV/AIDS, health provision to undocumented migrants in Europe, and children in especially difficult circumstances.
  • Understand the ethical frameworks used in foreign-led health care delivery in conflict areas and their implications for public health practice.
  • Analyse and synthesize diverse perspectives on the moral foundations of public health practice, including the assertion of health as a human right.

Intellectual skills

  • Analyse the principles of ethics and human rights as they relate to public health policies, programs, and practice.
  • Evaluate the intersection of human rights, ethics, and public health practice with specific focus on complex humanitarian settings.
  • Synthesize various ethical perspectives to re-think the moral foundations of everyday public health practice.

Practical skills

  • Apply ethical principles to public health policies and programs in a variety of settings.
  • Identify ethical dilemmas related to gender, sexuality, displacement, power, and foreign-led health care delivery in conflict areas.
  • Develop strategies to address ethical dilemmas in public health practice.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Communicate complex ethical concepts to diverse audiences through oral and written formats.
  • Work collaboratively to develop ethical solutions to public health issues.
  • Reflect on personal values and beliefs in relation to public health ethics and human rights.
  • Adapt ethical frameworks to different contexts and cultures.

Assessment methods

Assessment Task

Formative or Summative


Discussion Board Contributions

Formative or Summative


Essay Plan







Feedback methods

Feedback Method

Formative or Summative

Weekly discussion board engagement

Formative and Summative

Essay Plan feedback


Written feedback on Essay



Recommended reading

Dan Biswas, B.T. (2012) Access to health care for undocumented migrants from a human rights perspective: A comparative study of Denmark, Sweden, and the Netherlands. Health and Human Rights. [Online] 14 (2).

London, L. (2008) What Is a Human-Rights Based Approach to Health and Does It Matter? Health and Human Rights,10(1), 65-80.

Hawkes, S. & Buse, K. (2016) Searching for the Right to Health in the Sustainable Development Agenda Comment on “Rights Language in the Sustainable Development Agenda: Has Right to Health Discourse and Norms Shaped Health Goals?” International Journal of Health Policy and Management. [Online] 5 (5), 337–339.

Thomas, S.L. (2004) ‘Displacement and health’, British Medical Bulletin. [Online] 69 (1), 115–127.

Silove, D., Steel, Z. & Mollica, R.F. (2001) Detention of asylum seekers: assault on health, human rights, and social development. The Lancet. [Online] 357 (9266), 1436–1437.

Wilder-Smith, A. and Freedman, D.O., 2020. Isolation, quarantine, social distancing and community containment: pivotal role for old-style public health measures in the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak. Journal of travel medicine.

Study hours

Independent study hours
Independent study 150

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Amanda Mccorkindale Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Please note that these units are intensive 8-week short courses, predominately independent-study, with no face-to-face learning

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