Addressing the legacy of the US Public Health Service Syphilis Study at Tuskegee: Optimal Health in health care reform philosophy

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Ethics & Behavior

Publication Date


Date Added



This article is guided by principles and practices of bioethics and public health ethics focused on health care reform within the context of promoting Optimal Health. The Tuskegee University National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care is moving beyond the traditions of bioethics to incorporate public health ethics and Optimal Health. It is imperative to remember the legacy of the ill-fated research entitled Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male. Human participant research and health care must be connected to principles of bioethics and public health ethics if the Affordable Care Act is expected to positively impact on the health of people living in the United States. Optimal Health describes a strategy to achieve individual and population health. Health care reform offers an opportunity to shift from the traditional pathology focus of managing diseases to target disease prevention and health promotion with a new set of tools. Transformational change is possible if the lessons learned from the U.S. Public Health Service Syphilis Study at Tuskegee are considered and strategies in bioethics and public heath ethics are employed.


Public Health


Taylor & Francis