Our health together, our common health, falls short of the other democracies.
I will argue that it is our democracy itself that bears a major part of the blame. As the American pragmatist John Dewey argued, democracy is the precondition for the application of full intelligence to the solution of society’s problems.
“Full intelligence” must include seeing with the lens of epidemiology and the public health perspective, seeing clearly how we must change social conditions and arrangements that diminish our health together. The major impediment to our seeing the injustice of our system is because we have a blind spot at the heart of our democracy.
Conservative democracy rejects social justice; liberal democracy limits social justice to distributive justice: individual goods, individually provided.
We are blind to society itself as unjust. The public health perspective is far more than a strategy; it is the way of seeing ourselves as a society in democracy’s mirror. The public health perspective as our communal/ social justice vision must become more than a professional strategy; it must become our shared democratic faith that the common health is our democratic purpose. Only when we emphathize with those whose lives are lost because of our failure as a democracy can we empathize with the injustice in health status for other societies, democratic or not.