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Understanding Health Inequalities and JusticeBridging Perspectives for New Conversations$
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Mara Buchbinder, Michele Rivkin-Fish, and Rebecca Walker

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781469630359

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469630359.001.0001

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Justice, Evidence, and Interdisciplinary Health Inequalities Research

Justice, Evidence, and Interdisciplinary Health Inequalities Research

(p.213) 8 Justice, Evidence, and Interdisciplinary Health Inequalities Research
Understanding Health Inequalities and Justice

Nicholas B. King

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter examines the interplay between normative judgments and empirical research. Using a case study of recent work on the social determinants of health, the author argues that three domains that are normally thought of as conceptually and disciplinarily independent—epistemology, scientific methodology, and normative judgment—are in fact closely intertwined. When considering issues related to health inequalities and social justice, keeping these domains separate leads to poor science, poor theorizing, and, ultimately, poor policy choices. The author identifies three problems with the claim that in order to reduce health inequalities and improve population health, we are morally compelled to address the social determinants of health, through interventions that redistribute social or economic resources in a more fair or just manner. The problems are (1) assuming that data are the neutral products of objective scientific investigations; (2) misunderstanding causality and counterfactual reasoning; and (3) blind belief in the consonance of the good.

Keywords:   Social determinants of health, Health inequalities, Empirical research, Evidence, Social justice

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