Public Health Policy Is Political

Khusdeep Malhotra is with the Satcher Health Leadership Institute and with the Department of Community Health and Preventive Medicine, Morehouse School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Harry J. Heiman is with the Satcher Health Leadership Institute and with the Department of Family Medicine, Morehouse School of Medicine.
American Journal of Public Health (Impact Factor: 4.55). 05/2012; 102(7):e1; author reply el-2. DOI: 10.2105/AJPH.2012.300801
Source: PubMed


In his article,(1) Goldberg provides a very cohesive critique of why concern over politicization of public health policy as a justification for preferring a narrow to a broad model of public health is a nebulous argument. To achieve its mission of assurance, public health is obligated to engage broadly with the spectrum of factors that impact health outcomes, most importantly the social and environmental determinants. Avoiding the political implications of these factors has never been possible. Even the "basic 6" services defined under the narrow model of public health(2) have never been free of politics. Several recent and ongoing controversies illustrate this point. Firstly, recent H5N1 research,(3,4) with clear implications for controlling communicable disease and epidemic preparedness, became controversial largely as a result of US national security concerns, a political matter. Secondly, the ongoing challenges regarding abortion rights in multiple state legislatures and the recent debate regarding coverage of contraception in the Affordable Care Act, both of which clearly fall within the purview of maternal health, remain a political quagmire. Lastly, sexual education, an important health education issue, has always been highly political. Thus, even issues within the "basic 6" have always been of a political nature. As a result, the "narrow model" not only fails to carry any less risk of politicization, it also fails to address some of the most critical public health issues. (Am J Public Health. Published online ahead of print May 17, 2012: e1. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2012.300801).

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