Imagining a Justice-Based Health System
ennifer Prah Ruger, the director of the Health Equity and Policy Lab at the University of Pennsylvania, studies national and international public-health policies through a moral lens, examining the ways in which world leaders can insure more just health outcomes for their fellow-citizens, as well as for citizens of other nations—and how those two things necessarily intersect. Prah Ruger’s work is influenced by her former teacher Amartya Sen, whose “capabilities approach” to economics—developed with the philosopher Martha Nussbaum—envisions a broad definition of human flourishing, one that transcends indicators like G.D.P.
Prah Ruger’s most recent book, “Global Health Justice and Governance,” published in 2018, examines international crisis responses to past epidemics, such as the Ebola outbreak of 2014. “Public health and health care systems capacity and governance vary considerably across the globe,” Prah Ruger writes. “Like rapidly spreading contagions and global inequalities, this arbitrary patchwork of health systems is morally troubling.” That work is especially relevant today, with the coronavirus pandemic straining health systems around the world, from China to Italy and the United States. In the U.S.—a country that is infamous for the unequal outcomes of its health system—hospitals find themselves overwhelmed with patients and short on medical equipment.