Health capability: conceptualization and operationalization

Am J Public Health. 2010 Jan;100(1):41-9. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2008.143651.


Current theoretical approaches to bioethics and public health ethics propose varied justifications as the basis for health care and public health, yet none captures a fundamental reality: people seek good health and the ability to pursue it. Existing models do not effectively address these twin goals. The approach I espouse captures both of these orientations through a concept here called health capability. Conceptually, health capability illuminates the conditions that affect health and one's ability to make health choices. By respecting the health consequences individuals face and their health agency, health capability offers promise for finding a balance between paternalism and autonomy. I offer a conceptual model of health capability and present a health capability profile to identify and address health capability gaps.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Health*
  • Delivery of Health Care / ethics
  • Delivery of Health Care / organization & administration*
  • Health Services Accessibility / ethics*
  • Healthcare Disparities / ethics
  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Public Health / ethics