IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Equity is out of fashion? An essay on autonomy and health policy in the individualized society


  • Lindbladh, Eva
  • Lyttkens, Carl Hampus
  • Hanson, Bertil S.
  • Östergren, P. -O.


It is widely recognized that there is a discrepancy between principle and practice with respect to the health equity aim of public policy. This discrepancy is analyzed from two theoretical perspectives: the individualization of society and the fact that individual beliefs and values are connected to one's position in the social structure. These mechanisms influence both the choice of health policy measures and the normative judgements of preventive efforts, both of which tend to be consonant with the views of dominant social groups. In particular, we focus on the treatment of the ethical principle of autonomy and how this is reflected in health policy aimed at influencing health-related behaviour. We examine the current trend towards targeting health information campaigns on certain socio-economic groups and argue that it entails an ethical dilemma. The dominant discourse of the welfare state is contemplated as a means to understand why there tend to be a lack of emphasis on measures that are targeted at socio-economic inequalities. It is argued that there is no substantive basis in the individualized society for perceiving health equity as an independent moral principle and that the driving force behind the professed health equity goal may be in essence utilitarian.

Suggested Citation

  • Lindbladh, Eva & Lyttkens, Carl Hampus & Hanson, Bertil S. & Östergren, P. -O., 1998. "Equity is out of fashion? An essay on autonomy and health policy in the individualized society," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 46(8), pages 1017-1025, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:46:y:1998:i:8:p:1017-1025

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Sinding, Christina & Hudak, Pamela & Wiernikowski, Jennifer & Aronson, Jane & Miller, Pat & Gould, Judy & Fitzpatrick-Lewis, Donna, 2010. ""I like to be an informed person but..." negotiating responsibility for treatment decisions in cancer care," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 71(6), pages 1094-1101, September.


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:46:y:1998:i:8:p:1017-1025. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.