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Health is Political

Health is Political

New interview with Joan Benach in Left Voice

"Left Voice presents an interview with Joan Benach, author of several texts on public health, who discusses public health as a primarily political question, determined by historical-structural factors. He describes the notion of social class and its relation to the health-illness binary as well as the processes of marketization that health care has been subjected to under neoliberal policies"


The concept of public health has evolved from an initial emphasis on hygiene and the isolation of the sick to concepts that are more related to prevention and a more social vision, such as collective health. What is your understanding of public health today?

Public health can be defined as the set of knowledge, technology and interventions aimed at understanding and improving the “health of all”, or collective health, for the wellbeing of all of society. This vision supposes, however, that it’s not only about improving health of the population as a whole. One also needs to emphasize the increase of equity in health, because it is very possible for the average health of the population to improve and same time for inequality to grow between groups or territories. In any case, when considering such a broad field, we can note that there are very distinct views of public health based on the causes and solutions of health that we focus on. For example, there is a view of public health that is apparently “neutral” or asocial. It is related to risk management and based, paradoxically, on health as a group of biological individuals and on the implementation of solutions, “strategies” or technologies. On the other hand, there is a view of public health that is social and historical. This view is very related to the profound importance that social and political determinants have on collective health and on equity.