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Children's Health Inequalities: Ethical and Political Challenges to Seeking Social Justice Childhood obesity may have severe consequences for long-term health, but is it a problem of social justice, and, if so, what should be done about it? We need to understand the autonomy parents have to make decisions affecting their children—and how social policy may influence it.
By and large, the richer you are, the healthier you will be and the longer you will live. This fact, often referred to as the social gradient in health, raises a host of important questions. Among the more basic is which, if any, social inequalities in population health are unjust. I will argue that justice requires both broad structural reforms to improve the material and social conditions in which children are reared and specific programs targeted at the adults who have direct and special responsibility to care for them. In short, a social commitment to investing in children’s health and futures requires a social commitment to investing in their families. The upshot for public policy is both to mitigate structural inequality among families and to promote parental capacity within them.
By and large, the richer you are, the healthier you will be and the longer you will live. This fact, often referred to as the social gradient in health, raises a host of important questions. Among the more basic is which, if any, social inequalities in population health are unjust. I will argue that justice requires both broad structural reforms to improve the material and social conditions in which children are reared and specific programs targeted at the adults who have direct and special responsibility to care for them. In short, a social commitment to investing in children’s health and futures requires a social commitment to investing in their families. The upshot for public policy is both to mitigate structural inequality among families and to promote parental capacity within them.

Erika Blacksher, “Children’s Health Inequalities: Ethical and Political Challenges to Seeking Social Justice,” Hastings Center Report 38, no. 4 (2008): 28-35.