Justice and Health

People in lower socio-economic classes on average have shorter lives and are less healthy than people in higher socio-economic classes and this raises concerns about justice. Indeed, health policies often aspire to improve the health of worse-off groups, or otherwise reduce (socio-economic) health disparities.

But if we are interested in reducing health inequalities for reasons of justice, what indicators of health and/or health-related quality of life should we use? In the Netherlands, the average life-expectancy for people in lowest socio-economic groups is 7 years less than for those in the highest class, but health disparities appear much higher (up to 20 years) if more subjective measures of health or quality of life are included.

The core elements of the philosophical PhD study are (a) to clarify the links between various theories of health and quality of life, and (b) to assess the ethical relevance of concepts and measures of health and quality of life from the perspective of theories of health justice. This work interacts with empirical studies carried out at Amsterdam Medical Centre (Karien Stronks) that aim to clarify how people in different socio-economic classes conceptualise health.

The research program will result in proposals how health and quality of life should be conceptualised and measured in policies that aim to reduce health inequalities. The PhD study is carried out by Beatrijs Haverkamp and supervised by Marcel Verweij and Bernice Bovenkerk.