Personal vis-a-vis social responsibility for disparities in health status: An issue of justice
personal responsibility in health
social determinants of health
Public aspects of medicine
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AbstractHealth inequities are disparities which can be avoided through rational actions on the part of policymakers. Such inequalities are unnecessary and unjust and may exist between and within nations, societies, and population groups. Social determinants such as wealth, income, occupation, education, gender, and racial/ethnic groups are the principal drivers of this inequality since they determine the health risks and preventive behaviors, access to, and affordability of health care. Within this framework, there is a debate on assigning a personal responsibility factor over and above societal responsibility to issues of ill health. One school of philosophy argues that when individuals are worse-off than others for no fault of their own, it is unjust, as opposed to health disparities that arise due to avoidable personal choices such as smoking and drug addiction for which there should (can) be a personal responsibility. Opposing thoughts have pointed out that the relative socioeconomic position of an individual dictates how his/her life may progress from education to working conditions and aging, susceptibility to diseases and infirmity, and the consequences thereof. The existence of a social gradient in health outcomes across populations throughout the world is a testimony to this truth. It has been emphasized that assuming personal responsibility for health in public policy-making can only have a peripheral place. Instead, the concept of individual responsibility should be promoted as a positive concept of enabling people to gain control over the determinants of health through conscious, informed, and healthy choices.
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