A Public Health Ethics Approach to Substance Use Disorder

Upcoming onsite and virtual lecture:
Mon., Oct. 2
7–9 pm

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Adele Flaherty, PhD
Program Specialist, Allegheny County EARN

Adele Flaherty, PhD

The goal of the discussion is to undertake an analysis of substance use disorders that focuses on a public health ethics perspective. The ethical argument focuses on justifying the use of harm reduction and is primarily concerned with the current opioid crisis. While substance abuse/misuse over the course of history has been identified as a public health concern, this discussion presents substance use disorders over the course of the lifespan, examining various contexts in which it can affect daily living and health outcomes. It achieves this by analyzing substance use disorders through the lens of the socioecological model of public health. This premise frames the foundation for this discussion’s central argument; namely, that governmental and healthcare organizations have an ethical imperative to provide equitable care to individuals with substance use disorders. After establishing this foundation, this discussion addresses obstacles to improving health outcomes of individuals with substance use disorders and offers suggestions for how to overcome deficits in various aspects of society for such individuals.

The analysis provides a historical and contemporary view of substance use in the United States and globally to illustrate the need for change at various levels of society regarding how we perceive and respond to substance use disorders. The discussion of the public health ethical approach to substance use disorder informs the stance that governmental and healthcare organizations are uniquely situated to intervene to reduce stigma, increase access to diagnosis and treatment in various forms, and reduce the incidence of substance use disorders such as opioid use disorder. Together, the concepts discussed provide an ethical framework to advocate for system-wide changes in the ways that public and private sectors of society approach and interact with health-related concerns pertaining to individuals with substance use disorders.

About Adele Flaherty: 

Adele was born in New Jersey but spent most of her time growing up in Austin, Texas. She has a Master’s and Bachelor’s degree in sociology, which she earned at Texas State University. She moved to the Pittsburgh area in 2013 and subsequently earned her PhD in Healthcare Ethics at Duquesne University, with a focus on public health ethics and substance use disorders. She is a wife and mother of two serving Partner4Work as the Program Specialist for the Allegheny County EARN and Work Ready Programming, ensuring effective delivery of these services. Adele also works as an adjunct professor at Duquesne where she teaches Nursing Ethics. In her spare time, she likes to camp with her family, listen to podcasts and watch Philadelphia sports teams, while also supporting her kids in their many extracurricular activities.

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The event is FREE to attend onsite and virtually, but preregistration is required opens in a new window! Carnegie Science Center would like to continue to offer programs like Café Sci, Women in STEM, and others. Please consider making a donation when you register. Once you sign up, you’ll get an email confirmation. Have a question for Dr. Flaherty? You’ll be able to type your questions in the Q&A section during the presentation!

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