“Public health” imperialism

by Walter Olson on March 20, 2006

Once upon a time, the main mission of “public health” was to prevent the spread of contagious illnesses, and handing the members of that profession a lot of coercive power may have seemed like a sound idea. But now many of the profession’s members are demanding that government intervene against unhealthy individual lifestyle choices. Keep your laws off our bodies, please (Ronald Bailey, “Is Diabetes a Plague?”, Reason, Mar. 17).

{ 1 comment }

1 gasman 03.20.06 at 9:36 am

One of the ironies of public health is that its necessity originates from the very features we consider necessary to modern life. Transportation that allows a carrier to move between populations while ramaining infected, close proximity living, and heirarchical social structures. These were all brought to America by the europeans suffering these plights. The natives in America suffered few of these because their ability to spread disease between population groups was slower than the rate at which the disease would run out of availablel local hosts. The european lifestyle permitted, and even guaranteed, the conversion of low level endemic disease to widespread and continuous epidemic levels.

The claims of success for public health measures as progress must be tempered against the very progress that made public health such a fundamentnal necessity.

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