Sometimes, making the right decision can be difficult, especially if that decision affects the lives of millions of people. After all, what may seem like the correct solution for one person may feel wrong to someone else – or to entire communities.

Enter Dr. Julia Brassolotto, who teaches Advanced Public Health Policy and Ethics. It’s a heady topic for challenging times and Dr. Brassolotto doesn’t shy away from the tough stuff, unravelling sticky situations and thought-provoking conundrums, much to the relief of her MSc (Health Sciences) Public Health specialization students who are bound to face similar real-world scenarios in their careers.

Fascinating discussion and debate

“This course highlights the intersection of public policy and public health ethics. This explicit focus is pretty novel for a course like this. I want to ensure that our graduates can go on to create healthy public policies that have ethical outcomes but also have ethical processes,” Dr. Brassolotto says.

Ethical issues ranging from the allocation of scarce lifesaving resources and the moral framing of the ‘obesity epidemic’ to climate change and the increasing use of biotechnology, are just some of the topics covered in the course.

And if you think informing and creating public health policy is boring, think again.

“At its core, policy is about a collection of people living together and having to make choices about how to do so. This process involves passions, interests, conflicts, persuasion, and balancing values and goals. These things warrant as much attention in our training as, say, understanding the stages of the policy-making cycle,” says Dr. Brassolotto.

“It’s certainly not boring listening to students discuss and debate things like the ethics of alcohol regulation or a market in human organs.”

Skills for real-life

At the end of the course, students are well-versed in the key concepts of public policy and policy language, and have a rich understanding of the ethical theories that inform public policy. They also leave skilled in applying the same framework used by the Public Health Agency of Canada to navigate the tension between public health policy issues and ethical considerations.

“My favourite part about teaching this course is witnessing the moments when I see someone shift their opinion on an issue, or at least make space for a different point of view. My students this term have been honest about where they each stand on certain issues but have also been delightfully open to entertaining new ideas and engaging with the tensions that arise around such complex issues. It’s so important for policy makers to be reflective of their own positions and assumptions, and also incorporate evidence and input from a range of stakeholders,” she says.

“This past year has really shown us the value of public health training, not only in terms of knowledge about epidemiology and/or infectious disease control, but also in terms of how we arrange our society and what implications that has for our well-being.”

In addition to her role as an Assistant Professor in the Public Health Program in the Faculty of Health Sciences, Dr. Brassolotto also holds an Alberta Innovates – New Investigator Research Chair in Healthy Futures and Well-being in Rural Settings. When she’s not busy posing difficult ethical dilemmas or positioning public health policy, you can find Dr. Brassolotto hiking with her dog, listening to podcasts, reading and cooking.

Learn more from superstar instructors like Dr. Brassolotto, explore in the ULethbridge’s graduate programs in Public Health.

Master of Science (MSc) | Major: Health Sciences, specialization: Public Health

Graduate Certificate in Epidemiology and Biostatistics

Graduate Certificate in Public Health Program and Policy Planning and Evaluation