More Than a Message

For more than a decade, public health practitioners have been influenced by the work of Daniel Beauchamp who argued that the ethic of public health is social justice and that public health problems go far beyond individual factors. Opposing this view are the proponents of market justice, who support the idea that the market will respond to the desires of the people and an unfettered marketplace is the best way to serve those desires. This article considers how public health advocates argue for change, including the language that they use, which can either reinforce social justice values or undermine them. How an issue is described or framed can determine the extent to which it gains popular or political support.

The authors compare and contrast arguments used to support or oppose public health goals. The language, the specifics of a message, will emerge from how the issue is being framed. The authors explain how certain public health issues might be reframed to better emphasize public health as social justice. Public health advocates recognize the relationship between individual actions and the settings and circumstances surrounding those actions. When public health advocates and educators learn to articulate their values and to balance market justice with social justice values, their message will become more effective.