Public health and social justice: Forging the links

L Horn


The purpose of this article is to explore the concept and scope of public health and to argue that particularly in low income contexts, where social injustice and poverty often impact significantly on the overall health of the population, the link between public health and social justice should be a very firm one. Furthermore, social justice in these contexts must be understood as not simply a matter for local communities and nation-states, but in so far as public health is concerned, as a matter of global concern and responsibility. The interpretation of the scope of public health by any particular nation is I believe contingent on the current socio-political context and the conception of social or distributive justice that underpins this context. Furthermore I will argue here that the link between public health and social justice ought to be founded on a conception of social justice that adequately addresses issues of social injustice and patterns of systematic disadvantage that contribute to ill health and that so commonly prevail in many low and middle income social contexts. 

Author's affiliations

L Horn, Centre for Applied Ethics, Department of Philosophy and Division for Research Development, Stellenbosch University, South Africa

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public health; social justice; ethics

Cite this article

South African Journal of Bioethics and Law 2015;8(2):26-29. DOI:10.7196/SAJBL.437

Article History

Date submitted: 2015-10-07
Date published: 2015-11-26

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