The Civil Rights of Health: A New Approach to Challenging Structural Inequality
66 Pages Posted: 24 Apr 2019 Last revised: 19 Feb 2020
Date Written: March 11, 2019
An emerging literature on “the social determinants of health” reveals that a major driver of public health disparities is subordination. This body of research makes possible a powerful new alliance between public health and civil rights advocates: an initiative to promote the “civil rights of health.” Understanding health as a matter of justice and civil rights law as a health intervention has the potential to strengthen public health advocacy. At the same time, understanding social injustice as a health issue as well as a moral issue has the potential to reinvigorate civil rights advocacy. However, given the history of legal/public health initiatives that have reflected and even reinforced subordination, social movements are an essential advocacy partner and watchdog. This Article argues that a civil rights of health initiative built on a “health justice” framework can help educate policymakers and the public about the health effects of subordination, create new legal tools for challenging subordination, and ultimately reduce or eliminate unjust health disparities.
Keywords: civil rights, public health, critical race theory, social justice
JEL Classification: I14, K39
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation