How should we understand equality in health?
Is equality best understood as a distributive concern, or should it be viewed as a social and political ideal? The former view dominates in the justice and health literature, but in a new essay Gry Wester and Kristin Vogt explore the latter view.
One strand of the debate on egalitarianism focuses on whether equality is best understood as a distributive ideal, concerned with distributive patterns of relevant outcomes, or instead, as a social and political ideal, concerned with the quality of social relationships. Much of the literature on justice and health works from a predominantly distributive understanding of justice.
In this new paper, Gry Wester from the Global Health Priorities research group, together with Kristin Voigt from McGill University, explore a number of different ways in which the relational approach could have implications for health, with particular focus on health care, health inequalities and health policy.
Health raises interesting questions for relational egalitarians, particularly in light of emerging epidemiological evidence about the possible role of material factors and broader social circumstances in shaping health outcomes. While the relational account can add interesting perspectives to current debates on justice and health, their discussion also highlights some tensions and difficulties relational egalitarians might encounter, as well as some discontinuities between the implications of a relational account and current discourse on health equity.