The core aims of the Global Health Impact Project include incentivizing pharmaceutical companies for socially conscious production and promoting socially conscious consumption among consumers. Its backbone is a metric that computes the amount of illness burden alleviated by a pharmaceutical drug. This essay aims to assess the connection between values and numbers in the Global Health Impact Project. Specifically, I concentrate on two issues, the anonymity of illness burden and the distribution of health benefits. The former issue asks whether we (...) should treat the illness burden of every person the same. The latter issue asks among whom health benefits should be fairly distributed. Examination of these issues begs for clarification of some of the key concepts of the Global Health Impact Project, such as the definition of essential medicines and the significance of national borders. Although this essay focuses on the two particular metric issues in the Global Health Impact Project, its core argument is applicable to other metrics for ethically motivated initiatives—to construct a metric for an ethically motivated initiative, it is not only important to articulate underlying concepts and values, but it is also important to operationalize them, so they are consistently reflected in the metric. (shrink)
Health inequalities are of concern both becausestudying them may help one learn how to improvehealth and because health inequalities may beunjust. This paper argues that attending tothese reasons why health inequalities may beimportant undercuts the claims of researchersat the World Health Organization in favor offocusing on individual health variation ratherthan on social group health differences. Inequalities in individual health are of littleinterest unless one goes on to study how theyare related to other factors.
The history of the documentation of health inequality is long. The way in which health inequality has customarily been documented is by comparing differences in the average health across groups, for example, by sex or gender, income, education, occupation, or geographic region. In the controversial World Health Report 2000, researchers at the World Health Organization criticized this traditional practice and proposed to measure health inequality across individuals irrespective of individuals’ group affiliation. They defended its proposal on the moral grounds without (...) clear explanation. In this paper I ask: is health inequality across individuals of moral concern, and, if so, why? Clarification of these questions is crucial for meaningful interpretation of health inequality measured across individuals. Only if there was something morally problematic in health inequality across individuals, its reduction would be good news. Specifically, in this paper I provide three arguments for the moral significance of health inequality across individuals: (a) health is special, (b) health equity plays an important and unique role in the general pursuit of justice, and (c) health inequality is an indicator of general injustice in society. I then discuss three key questions to examine the validity of these arguments: (i) how special is health?, (ii) how good is health as an indicator?, and (iii) what do we mean by injustice? I conclude that health inequality across individuals is of moral interest with the arguments (b) and (c). (shrink)
Emerging parallel to long-standing, academic and policy inquiries on personal responsibility for health is the empirical assessment of lay persons’ views. Yet, previous studies rarely explored personal responsibility for health among lay persons as dynamic societal values. We sought to explore lay persons’ views on personal responsibility for health using the Fairness Dialogues, a method for lay persons to deliberate equity issues in health and health care through a small group dialogue using a hypothetical scenario. We conducted two 2-h Fairness (...) Dialogues sessions (n = 15 in total) in Nova Scotia, Canada. We analyzed data using thematic analysis. Our analysis showed that personal choice played an important role in participants’ thinking about health. Underlying the concept of personal choice was considerations of freedom and societal debt. In participants’ minds, personal and social responsibilities co-existed and they were unwilling to determine health care priority based on personal responsibility. The Fairness Dialogues is a promising deliberative method to explore lay persons’ views as dynamic values to be developed through group dialogues as opposed to static, already-formed values waiting to be elicited. (shrink)