Human health and the environment: in harmony or in conflict?

Health Care Anal. 2009 Sep;17(3):261-76. doi: 10.1007/s10728-008-0104-x. Epub 2009 Jan 7.


Health policy frameworks usually construe environmental protection and human health as harmonious values. Policies that protect the environment, such as pollution control and pesticide regulation, also benefit human health. In recent years, however, it has become apparent that promoting human health sometimes undermines environmental protection. Some actions, policies, or technologies that reduce human morbidity, mortality, and disease can have detrimental effects on the environment. Since human health and environmental protection are sometimes at odds, political leaders, citizens, and government officials need a way to mediate and resolve conflicts between these values. Unfortunately, few approaches to applied bioethics have the conceptual tools to do accomplish this task. Theories of health care ethics have little to say about the environment, and theories of environmental ethics don't say much about human health. In this essay, I defend an approach to ethical decision-making that gives policy-makers some tools for balancing promotion of human health and protection of the environment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Bioethical Issues*
  • Conservation of Natural Resources
  • DDT / toxicity
  • Decision Making
  • Environment*
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Malaria / prevention & control
  • Policy*


  • DDT