Viewpoint: Reconsidering the Politics of Public Health

September 11, 2013, Vol 310, No. 10

Viewpoint | September 11, 2013
Reconsidering the Politics of Public Health
Dave A. Chokshi, MD, MSc1; Nicholas W. Stine, MD2
Initial language
A central dilemma in public health is reconciling the role of the individual with the role of the government in promoting health. On the one hand, governmental policy approaches—taxes, bans, and other regulations—are seen as emblematic of “nanny state” overreach. In this view, public health regulation is part of a slippery slope toward escalating government intrusion on individual liberty. On the other hand, regulatory policy is described as a fundamental instrument for a “savvy state” to combat the conditions underlying an inexorable epidemic of chronic diseases. Proponents of public health regulation cite the association of aggressive tobacco control, physical activity, and nutritional interventions with demonstrable increases in life expectancy…1