Building a Social Justice Narrative for Public Health

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Health Education & Behavior

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Public health is the place where science, policy, politics, and activism converge. Each public health issue is a snapshot where we can see the unfolding of the collective processes that define who we are, what we believe, and what we value as a society. Our professional strength is our commitment to community and social justice values, but we are challenged to effectively communicate these values in an individualistic, market-dominated society. It is this language of community, and the values it represents, that must be the core of the narrative animating a more just and healthier society. A public health perspective characterized by social justice argues that public health problems are primarily socially generated and can be predicted based on the level of injustice and inequality in a society. Thus, the solutions to such problems must be through progressive social and public health policies and are best understood as a collective responsibility shared across the various levels of society. When we can develop a narrative that effectively communicates the social justice values that are the foundation of this perspective, ours will be a society that better understands the meaning of public health and responds more appropriately to its challenges. We will then be collectively more effective in better translating our values into caring, and more effective, public policy. This will not be easy, but it will be necessary.


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