Ethics and health promotion practice: Exploring attitudes and practices in Western Australian health organisations
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Issue addressed: Evidence-informed practice underpinned by ethics is fundamental to developing the science of health promotion. Knowledge and application of ethical principles are competencies required for health promotion practice. However, these competencies are often inconsistently understood and applied. This research explored attitudes, practices, enablers and barriers related to ethics in practice in Western Australian health organisations. Methods: Semistructured, in-depth interviews were conducted with 10 health promotion practitioners, purposefully selected to provide a cross-section of government and non-government organisations. Interviews were recorded, transcribed and then themed. Results: The majority of participants reported consideration of ethics in their practice; however, only half reported seeking Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) approval for projects in the past 12 months. Enablers identified as supporting ethics in practice and disseminating findings included: support preparing ethics applications; resources and training about ethical practice; ability to access HRECs for ethics approval; and a supportive organisational culture. Barriers included: limited time; insufficient resourcing and capacity; ethics approval not seen as part of core business; and concerns about academic writing. Conclusion: The majority of participants were aware of the importance of ethics in practice and the dissemination of findings. However, participants reported barriers to engaging in formal ethics processes and to publishing findings. So what?: Alignment of evidence-informed and ethics-based practice is critical. Resources and information about ethics may be required to support practice and encourage dissemination of findings, including in the peer-reviewed literature. Investigating the role of community-based ethics boards may be valuable to bridging the ethics-evidence gap.
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