12.7 Ethical considerations
You have learned about the ethical issues that you need to be aware of in your role as a Health Extension Practitioner in Study Sessions 7, 8 and 9. These issues must also be considered in the context of research. There are many established codes of practice that cover the ethics of research. These are codes that protect the rights of respondents either in research or in a community survey. Some of the widely accepted ethical principles include:
- The study should be conducted appropriately and data analysed in an unbiased way.
- Findings should be presented honestly; investigators should not fabricate data or distort their results.
- Contributions of others should be acknowledged.
- Investigators should not suppress unwanted findings.
- Investigators should declare any conflicts of interest.
Furthermore, as we develop our data collection techniques, we need to consider whether our data collection procedures are likely to cause any physical or emotional harm. Harm may be caused, for example by:
- Violating respondents’ right to privacy by posing sensitive questions or by gaining access to records which may contain personal data.
- Allowing personal information that respondents would want to be kept private to be made public.
- Failing to observe or respect certain cultural values, traditions or taboos valued by your respondents.
You will need to be aware of these ethical considerations when you collect data for your community survey or in other research, For example, in questionnaires, it may be advisable to omit names and addresses if sensitive questions are asked about such things as family planning or sexual practices, or about opinions of patients on the health services provided. Some other suggestions for dealing with difficult ethical considerations are:
- Obtain informed consent from participants before the study or the interview begins.
- Avoiding exploring sensitive issues until you have established a good relationship with the respondent.
- Ensure that the data obtained is kept confidential (Figure 12.5).
- Ensure that the culture of respondents is respected during the data collection process.