Week 6 Discussion

Week 6: Public Health Ethics, Social Justice and Poverty

1. Social Justice vs. Market Justice

Public health nurses are also guided by the principles of market justice and social justice (Cornerstones of Public Health Nursing, MDH 2007). The economy of the United States has been shaped by the concept of market justice. Under this principle, people are entitled only to those things that they have acquired by their own individual efforts, actions, or abilities. The principle of social justice on the other hand is that the benefits of society should be fairly and equitably distributed to assure the functioning of society as a whole. Social justice reflects the belief that everyone should have the same access to societal resources and those societal resources should be used to provide the greatest good for the greatest number. Market justice reflects the belief that people deserve what they earn. At times, the principles of market justice and social justice are in conflict. Both perspectives have value. However, citizens do not necessarily agree with each other on which form of justice or set of beliefs should direct how health care is provided to the population as a whole. Review the Market Justice-Social Justice Table 13.4 (p. 257) and section on Market Justice vs. Social Justice (p. 256) in Schoon, Porta, & Schaffer (2019) to answer the following questions.

a. Which concept of justice is the best fit for you?  Explain. No right or wrong answer. This is only an opportunity for reflection.

b. Pick either market or social justice and explain how advocating for that type of justice could improve the health of vulnerable populations and eliminate health disparities.

c. Why is it important for you to understand your beliefs around social justice?


a. Both concepts of justice have different perspectives and priorities in terms of distributive fairness. Market justice prioritizes individual efforts and rewards, while social justice prioritizes the distribution of benefits for the greater good. The concept that one considers as the best fit for themselves depends on their personal values and beliefs about fairness and distribution of resources.

b. Advocating for social justice could improve the health of vulnerable populations and eliminate health disparities by ensuring equal access to resources, opportunities and services, which are necessary for good health. For example, providing access to quality healthcare services to all individuals, regardless of their income level, would help reduce health disparities.

c. Understanding one’s beliefs around social justice is important as it helps in developing a personal understanding of one’s values and priorities in regards to distributive fairness and helps in making informed decisions. It is also crucial in understanding the perspectives of others and being able to engage in productive discussions and debates on the distribution of health resources and services.

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