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Inequality in the Face of Death: Health as a Matter of Social Justice

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Eleanor Rathbone Building

Hearnshaw Lecture Theatre

Liverpool

L7

United Kingdom

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The bias and discrimination that lead to differences in access to resources and opportunities for health between socioeconomic groups is unfair. This touches on the special place that health holds in human rights: everyone has the right to enjoy the highest attainable standard of health in their society (WHO, 1946). Health is also a unique resource for achieving other objectives in life, such as better education and employment. Amartya Sen goes further and maintains that health is a way of promoting the freedom of individuals and societies. It is, therefore, important for a society to organise its health resources equitably, so that access to those resources is open to everyone. The existence of clear socioeconomic differentials in health and in their determinants goes against accepted values of fairness and justice. This lecture will elaborate on the conceptual and ethical arguments for health as a matter of social justice, before discussing more equitable and just action to tackle widespread ‘inequality in the face of death’.

Professor Dame Margaret Whitehead holds the W.H. Duncan Chair of Public Health at the University of Liverpool where she has also been Head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Policy Research on Social Determinants of Health since 2005. Researchers involved in this programme are studying both the social causes of ill-health and the adverse consequences of having a chronic illness, such as reduced income and employment chances, social isolation and stigma. With Nordic collaborators, she is looking at the ways in which health and social welfare systems themselves reduce or exacerbate the adverse consequences of ill-health and what can be done to improve the situation. Dame Margaret has been involved in various national and international efforts to address social inequalities in health, including sitting on the UK Government’s Independent Inquiry into Inequalities in Health (the Acheson Inquiry) and membership of the Senior Advisory Board of the WHO European Review of Social Determinants of Health and the Health Divide. In addition to her position at Liverpool she is also a Visiting Professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm.

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Eleanor Rathbone Building

Hearnshaw Lecture Theatre

Liverpool

L7

United Kingdom

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