Resisting Moralisation in Health Promotion

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 21 (4):997-1011 (2018)
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Abstract

Health promotion efforts are commonly directed towards encouraging people to discard ‘unhealthy’ and adopt ‘healthy’ behaviours in order to tackle chronic disease. Typical targets for behaviour change interventions include diet, physical activity, smoking and alcohol consumption, sometimes described as ‘lifestyle behaviours.’ In this paper, I discuss how efforts to raise awareness of the impact of lifestyles on health, in seeking to communicate the need for people to change their behaviour, can contribute to a climate of ‘healthism’ and promote the moralisation of people’s lifestyles. I begin by summarising recent trends in health promotion and introducing the notion of healthism, as described by Robert Crawford in the 1980s. One aspect of healthism is moralisation, which I outline and suggest is facilitated by efforts to promote health via information provision and educational strategies. I propose that perceived responsibility plays a role in mediating the tendency to moralise about health and behaviour. Since I argue that states ought to avoid direct and indirect moralisation of people’s health-related behaviour, this suggests states must be cautious with regard to the use of responsibility-indicating interventions to promote health.

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References found in this work

Freedom and Resentment.Peter Strawson - 1962 - Proceedings of the British Academy 48:187-211.
Health as a theoretical concept.Christopher Boorse - 1977 - Philosophy of Science 44 (4):542-573.
Freedom and Resentment.Peter Strawson - 2003 - In Gary Watson (ed.), Free Will. Oxford University Press.
1. Freedom and Resentment.Peter Strawson - 1993 - In John Martin Fischer & Mark Ravizza (eds.), Perspectives on moral responsibility. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. pp. 1-25.

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