Health equality, social justice and the poverty of autonomy

Christopher Newdick
  • Health Economics Policy and Law, May 2017, Cambridge University Press
  • DOI: 10.1017/s1744133117000093

Health equality, social justice and the poverty of autonomy.

What is it about?

How does the concept of autonomy assist public responses to ‘lifestyle’ diseases? Autonomy is fundamental to bioethics, but its emphasis on self-determination and individuality hardly supports public health policies to eat and drink less and take more exercise. Autonomy rejects a ‘nanny’ state. Yet, the cost of non-communicable diseases is increasing to individuals personally and to public health systems generally. Health care systems are under mounting and unsustainable pressure. What is the proper responsibility of individuals, governments and corporate interests working within a global trading environment? When public health care resources are unlikely to increase, we cannot afford to be so diffident to the cost of avoidable diseases.

Why is it important?

Non-communicable diseases are imposing unsustainable demands of public health services. Is this a private matter for individuals alone; to live for today with no care for the future? Or does society have an interest in preserving the integrity of health care system? Do multinational food and drinks corporations have responsibilities to the public interest too? Traditional notions of "autonomy" favour laissez-faire approaches to individuals and business interests. However, there is good reason to question that approach and to intervene more effectively to preserve public health for everyone's benefit.

Read Publication

The following have contributed to this page: Chris Newdick