WEH/Ethox Seminar - Health as wellbeing and health as asset: Why the distinction matters

Health is both an intrinsic and an instrumental good for human beings: Health is good for us because we are well when we are healthy. Health is also a means to achieve other goals, such as education, jobs or, more generally, a long life. Accordingly, health can be seen both as an element of individual wellbeing and as an individual asset. People who tend to be healthy have an advantage over those who are prone to illness. Research in social epidemiology regarding so-called social determinants of health has established how far-reaching the advantages can be. It has also been shown that health impacts can be seen in almost any area of people’s lives. For instance, the level of education, quality of housing or whether people have access to meaningful work can determine, albeit indirectly, the level of individual health. The traditional discussion on health care justice has accordingly been widened to include aspects that are not restricted to medical resources. In other words, justice in health care has been broadened to issues in health justice more generally. In my paper I will aim at clarifying the difference between the two conceptions of health. I will also attempt to tease out relevant normative differences between these two perspectives on health.