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date: 23 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Public health is (1) a collective good, (2) primarily focused on prevention, (3) often reliant on government action for its promotion, and (4) intrinsically outcome-oriented. These characteristics of public health give rise to a number of ethical issues, such as the balancing of future health gains against current ones, the justification for the state’s use of coercive powers to advance health, and the moral foundation of public health. There are also some broader conceptual and moral challenges that bear on how such public health ethics issues are addressed. One challenge concerns the scope of public health: Whose health does public health seek to protect and promote? Another challenge concerns the boundaries of public health: How broadly or narrowly should we understand what public health entails? This chapter offers an overview of these distinctive challenges of public health ethics.

Keywords: public health ethics, collective good, prevention, boundaries, government action, moral foundation

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