Social Justice, Health Equity and Healthy Communities: Perspectives of the President of APHA

By Troutman, Adewale | The Nation's Health, May-June 2013 | Go to article overview

Social Justice, Health Equity and Healthy Communities: Perspectives of the President of APHA


Troutman, Adewale, The Nation's Health


OVER THE decades, our understanding of health has changed, and it continues to evolve. In 1946, the constitution of the World Health Organization declared that health was more than the absence of disease or infirmity, instead defining it as the presence of social and economic well-being. Because of my belief in the triad of human existence--mind, body and spirit--I personally include spiritual well-being as part of that definition. How we define things such as programs, policies, budget expenditures and priorities plays a critical role in how we address them.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1948, is clear in its statement that health is a basic human right. These philosophical positions elevate health from a discussion mired in the morass of health insurance, length of stay, management of disease and physician reimbursement.

The WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health, an international body convened earlier this century, made it clear that social justice is a matter of life and death. APHA has long been an advocate for human rights and social justice. As Association president, I encourage you to formulate a plan of personal and professional action based on the belief that health is a basic human right.

Social justice stands as a principle based in fairness and equity. Researcher and APHA member Camara Jones, MD, PhD, MPH, talks about institutional racism, where there is an unequal access to power, goods and services. This includes the inequitable distribution of opportunities for housing, education, jobs, child care and safety. …

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