Public health conference to weigh public good vs. individual choice

The differences between public good and individual choice will be highlighted at the seventh annual conference of the Institute for Public Health at Washington University in St. Louis. Some of the topics that will be discussed are vaccines, genetics, healthier school lunches, e-cigarettes and climate change.


The conference will be from 1–5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 7, at the Eric P. Newman Education Center on the Medical Campus.

The conference is free and open to the public, but participants are asked to preregister. To do so, visit here.

“Many policy decisions in public health involve limiting an individual’s choice in favor of the greater public good — examples include seat belt laws, motorcycle helmet requirements and vaccinations for many childhood infections,” said William G. Powderly, MD, director of the Institute for Public Health and the J. William Campbell Professor of Medicine. “The conference will explore the continuing need to seek the correct balance in these complex issues.”

Ellen Wright Clayton, JD, MD, an internationally respected leader in the field of law and genetics, will give the keynote address, “Justifications for Setting Limits on Individual Choice in Health.” Clayton holds appointments in the law and medical schools at Vanderbilt University.

At Vanderbilt, Clayton co-founded the Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society. She has published two books and more than 100 scholarly articles and chapters on the intersection of law, medicine and public health.

Talks on timely public health issues will follow the keynote. Carmen Fischer, dietitian and director of child nutrition services in the Rockwood School District, will address school nutrition programs and policies. Walton Sumner II, MD, associate professor of medicine at Washington University School of Medicine, will discuss e-cigarettes; and John Hickey, director of the Missouri chapter of the Sierra Club, will talk about climate change policies and regulations.

A panel discussion moderated by Timothy McBride, PhD, professor in the Brown School, will follow, and a poster session and refreshments will conclude the conference.

Washington University School of Medicine’s 2,100 employed and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient-care institutions in the nation, currently ranked sixth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.