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Governments’ Attention To Health Policy Can Promote Dignity, Freedom

In a Lancet opinion piece, the journal’s editor-in-chief Richard Horton writes about “[w]hy governments should take health more seriously,” stating, “The purpose of government is to uphold the dignity of its people. … The task of government is, as far as it can (given available resources), to enable the different hopes and intentions of its people to be fulfilled, as long as those hopes and intentions don’t infringe or limit the hopes and intentions of others.” He continues, “In other words, to promote dignity demands a concern for the freedom of a people to make choices,” noting, “Those freedoms have been called ‘capabilities’ by some writers.”

“Health is a capability to be valued by governments because our health influences the length and quality of our life, the ability we have to choose to be healthy, our freedom from violence and injury, our freedom from pain, the expression of feelings and emotions, and our ability to control our environment in ways that protect and strengthen the possibility for health,” Horton writes. “The measures of success of a health system are not only a set of health outcomes, but also a set of freedoms that health bestows upon us to choose the lives we value,” he continues, concluding, “Health matters because when politicians intervene in health policy they are intervening not with our health, but with the futures we all value and long for” (3/23).