Redistribution and Recognition

Pursing Social Justice in Public Health

Health and social position have a relationship, and to address differences in health among populations, the social determinants of health must be examined. This article examines public health’s commitment to understand health inequalities and social justice. The author specifically looks at the respect owed to socially disadvantaged groups and communities targeted by public health research and action for promotion.

Key Findings:

  • Interventions aimed at improving the public’s health can produce, or even reproduce, health inequities.
  • Targeting disadvantaged groups can lead to “misrecognition”—or a “form of disrespect expressed by ‘institutionalized patterns of culture value’ that create relations of subordination.”
  • The pursuit of equality in health and its social determinants must include respect of and for all populations.
  • Nondominant groups in a health project must be included in the process and discussion of projects aimed at health equity. This participatory parity is an obligation.

Health and its social determinants must be both guided and constrained by equal recognition among different populations to make strides in improving both population and individual health.