Broadening the Public and Policy Discourse
Edited by Timo J. Hämäläinen and Juliet Michaelson
Chapter 13: Policies for well-being and health
The general aim of political decision making in any country is or should be to do good to people, i.e. to protect and to promote their well-being. In the process, there are obvious basic needs and services that relate to them: to protect peace (the army), to protect order (the police) and to provide other basic needs of food, accommodation and so on. An important task is also to protect the health of the people from epidemics and diseases. But with the modern development of societies these basic needs are not enough. People are increasingly interested in decision making related to more immaterial values, especially concerning human well-being and the well-being of the environment. This brings up the question not only about the limits of societal responsibility for citizens' well-being, but also of what well-being is, and how it should be measured - and ultimately promoted. These questions are extensively discussed in several chapters of this book. Numerous surveys on the question of what people value show that health is usually very high on the list (e.g. Diener and Scollon 2003). But what do we mean by health? Is it lack of diseases or good 'subjective health', well-being or high happiness? This relates to the question: what should be the target of public health work and health policy, and more broadly of societal policies for well-being?
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