Politics of Health

Open, Lecture—Fall

In contemporary American society, “health” is both highly politicized and apolitical. Health is accepted as an unequivocal social good and unquestioned personal aspiration. No one can be “against health.” At the same time, the structure of our health-care system and the possibilities for reform have been the focus of intense political debates. In this lecture, we will examine the following kinds of questions: What is “health”? What is “public health”? In political and cultural debates about health, how has the body become the focal point of new kinds of moralisms? Why are there patterns in health, so that some groups live longer and have less illness than others? Why does the United States spend more on health care than other countries yet rank relatively low on many measures of good health? How likely is it that you will have access to health care when you need it? Can we make affordable health care available to more people? We will examine both the social and cultural meanings of health and the political and policy debates about health and health care.