Philosophical Explorations of Socioeconomic Health Inequalities

On 22 February, Beatrijs Haverkamp defends her PhD Thesis Philosophical explorations of socioeconomic health inequalities. The thesis was written as part of our research project on measuring and evaluating health inequalities. Parts of the thesis have been published already in Public Health Ethics, Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, BMJ Open, and TSG.

The thesis consists of two parts: a philosophical discussion what concept of health should guide policies aiming to reduce inequalities. Haverkamp presents a systematic analysis of different health concepts and argues for a pluralistic approach to this conceptual question. Against what many would assume, she explains how subjective measures should not be discarded as irrelevant in thinking about socioeconomic health inequalities - though other accounts will be relevant as well.

The second part of her thesis analyses and evaluates different approaches to health justice. Haverkamp points at several shortcomings in Norman Daniels's appeal to John Rawls as grounding an account of health justice, and she shows how these shortcomings can be repaired by appealing to a more complex idea of social justice and inequality - as developed for example by Iris Marion Young. Haverkamp then also develops a novel idea of health justice: inequalities can also be unjust because they result in unjust situations given our social practices and institutions. A good example is the inequality in years that people can have pensions: socioeconomic health inequalities result in very large inequalities in terms of years of pension enjoyment.

Haverkamp's non-ideal and instrumentalis approach offers new ways to respond to the health inequalities that themselves appear to be rather persistent.


PhD defence: 22 February 2019,

Wageningen University

Aula, gebouwnummer 362
Generaal Foulkesweg 1
6703 BG Wageningen