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date: 27 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter details historical points of connection between the field of public health and the eugenics movement in the United States, and explores the ethical significance of public health genetics in light of that history. It explains how attention to both eugenics and public health grew simultaneously in the twentieth-century United States, and how both fields contributed to the growth of laws that emphasized the use of the police power to constrain reproduction and immigration among certain groups as a means to advance efficiency and social progress. The chapter suggests that an emphasis on the prevention of problematic hereditary conditions supplies a similar motive for a new public health genetics today.

Keywords: eugenics, public health, genetics, police power, prevention, efficiency, social progress, public health ethics

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