Beyond Lifestyle: Governing the Social Determinants of Health

42 American Journal of Law & Medicine 284 (2016)

Posted: 30 Jul 2016 Last revised: 1 Dec 2016

See all articles by Wendy K. Mariner

Wendy K. Mariner

Boston University School of Law; Boston University School of Public Health

Date Written: July 1, 2016

Abstract

Non-communicable and chronic diseases have overtaken infectious diseases as the major causes of death and disability around the world. Despite recognition that reduction in the chronic disease burden will require governance systems to address the social determinants of health, most public health recommendations emphasize individual behavior as the primary cause of illness and the target of intervention. This Article argues that focusing on lifestyle can backfire, by increasing health inequities and inviting human rights violations. If States fail to take meaningful steps to alter the social and economic structures that create health risks and encourage unhealthy behavior, health at the population level is unlikely to improve significantly. Viewing the global health challenges from the perspective of human rights reveals opportunities for positive change in all sectors of governance. Explicit recognition of human rights can help refocus attention on the fundamental causes of health and protect individuals from unnecessary harm.

Suggested Citation

Mariner, Wendy K., Beyond Lifestyle: Governing the Social Determinants of Health (July 1, 2016). 42 American Journal of Law & Medicine 284 (2016), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2815574

Wendy K. Mariner (Contact Author)

Boston University School of Law ( email )

765 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
United States

Boston University School of Public Health ( email )

715 Albany Street
Boston, MA 02118
United States
617-638-4626 (Phone)
617-414-1464 (Fax)

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