Epidemiology and social justice in light of social determinants of health research

Bioethics. 2009 Feb;23(2):79-89. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8519.2008.00714.x.


The present article identifies how social determinants of health raise two categories of philosophical problems that also fall within the smaller domain of ethics; one set pertains to the philosophy of epidemiology, and the second set pertains to the philosophy of health and social justice. After reviewing these two categories of ethical concerns, the limited conclusion made is that identifying and responding to social determinants of health requires inter-disciplinary reasoning across epidemiology and philosophy. For the reasoning used in epidemiology to be sound, for its scope and (moral) purpose as a science to be clarified as well as for social justice theory to be relevant and coherent, epidemiology and philosophy need to forge a meaningful exchange of ideas that happens in both directions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Epidemiologic Methods*
  • Epidemiology / ethics*
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Social Conditions*
  • Social Justice*