How can we control epidemics without violating human rights? What principles should guide government agencies as they work to ensure the health of populations? These are questions in public health ethics that Dr. Thomas has addressed for more than a decade. He led the writing of the American public health code of ethics, advised the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on a variety of ethical questions, and advised the state of North Carolina on how to respond ethically to an influenza pandemic. He is contributing to an update of the public health code of ethics, and researching data ethics in the context of digital information used by governments to guide public health programs.

Selected Publications

Wambugu S, Thomas JC, Johnson D, Villella C. Data Ethics: Harnessing the Power of Digital Health Information Systems. Forthcoming on the MEASURE Evaluation website.

Lor A, Thomas JC, Barrrett D, Ortmann L, Herrera D. Cultural perspectives on key ethical issues in the context of pandemic influenza preparedness and response. Int J Health Policy Manag 2016; 5:653-62. doi: 10.15171/ijhpm.2016.55.

Thomas JC. Public Health Ethics. In: Scutchfield FD, Keck CW, Mays GP (Eds.) Principles of Public Health Practice, 4th Ed. Delmar Cengage Learning , 2014.

Thomas JC, Young S. Wake me up when there’s a crisis: Progress in pandemic influenza ethics preparedness Am J Public Health 2011;101:2080-2.

Thomas JC, MacDonald P, Wenink E. Ethical decision-making in a crisis: a case study ethics in public health emergencies. J Public Health Management and Practice 2009;15:E16-21.

Thomas JC, Desgupta N, Martinot A. Ethics in a pandemic: A survey of the state pandemic influenza plans. Am J Pubic Health 2007;97 Suppl 1:S26-31.

Thomas JC, Sage M, Dillenberg J, Guillory VJ. A code of ethics for public health. Am J Public Health 2002; 92:1057-9.




“I began working on public health ethics because of income disparities and racism that I ran into when conducting research in rural North Carolina.”


Dr. Thomas working in Vietnam with public health practitioners from ten Asian countries to identify ethics in a pandemic.