Public Health and Normative Public Goods

Public Health Ethics 11 (1):20-26 (2018)
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Public health is concerned with increasing the health of the community at whole. Insofar as health is a ‘good’ and the community constitutes a ‘public’, public health by definition promotes a ‘public good’. But ‘public good’ has a particular and much more narrow meaning in the economics literature, and some commentators have tried to limit the scope of public health to this more narrow meaning of a ‘public good’. While such a move makes the content of public health less controversial, it also strips important goals from the realm of public health, goals that traditionally have been, and morally should be, a part of it. Instead, I will argue, while public health should be defined by public goods, it should be defined by a broader conception of public goods that I shall call ‘normative public goods’, goods that ought to be treated as if they were public goods in the more narrow sense.
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