Ethics of the Social Determinants of Health

The Lancet, Vol. 364, pp. 1092-1097, 2004

6 Pages Posted: 12 Dec 2006

See all articles by Jennifer Prah Ruger

Jennifer Prah Ruger

University of Pennsylvania - School of Social Policy & Practice; University of Pennsylvania - Perelman School of Medicine

Abstract

Research over several decades has identified social inequalities in health, both between and within countries. This research has prompted some countries to pursue strategies to reduce socioeconomic inequalities in health. Such efforts have fuelled a debate that centres on the tension between the need to account for the impact of health determinants outside the health-care system (social determinants of health) and the need to balance health as an objective with other valuable social ends (in other policy domains). Alongside this practical debate exists a parallel debate at the philosophical level. The implications of theories of justice for social determinants of health has thus become an important topic of philosophical inquiry. This Article focuses specifically on the application of John Rawls' theory of justice to the social determinants of health and then proposes an alternative philosophical framework, that builds on and integrates Amartya Sen's capability approach and Aristotle's political theory, for thinking about such inequalities.

Keywords: Sen, social determinants, ethics

JEL Classification: I10

Suggested Citation

Prah Ruger, Jennifer, Ethics of the Social Determinants of Health. The Lancet, Vol. 364, pp. 1092-1097, 2004. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=950877

Jennifer Prah Ruger (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania - School of Social Policy & Practice ( email )

3701 Locust Walk
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6214
United States

University of Pennsylvania - Perelman School of Medicine

423 Guardian Drive
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

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