Public Health, Embodied History, and Social Justice: Looking Forward | Nancy Krieger

This essay was delivered as a commencement address at the University of California–Berkeley School of Public Health on May 17, 2015. Reflecting on events spanning from 1990 to 1999 to 2015, when I gave my first, second, and third commencement talks at the school, I discuss four notable features of our present era and offer five insights for ensuring that health equity be the guiding star to orient us all. The four notable features are: (1) growing recognition of the planetary emergency of global climate change; (2) almost daily headlines about armed conflicts and atrocities; (3) growing public awareness of and debate about epic levels of income and wealth inequalities; and (4) growing activism about police killings and, more broadly, “Black Lives Matter.” The five insights are: (1) public health is a public good, not a commodity; (2) the “tragedy of the commons” is a canard; the lack of a common good is what ails us; (3) good science is not enough, and bad science is harmful; (4) good evidence—however vital—is not enough to change the world; and (5) history is vital, because we live our history, embodied. Our goal: a just and sustainable world in which we and every being on this planet may truly thrive.
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Expanding our Public Health System to include Collective Life-Capital Health

“Natural capital’ is an understandable attempt to put a value on our living planet and all the services it provides for us, writes John McMurtry. But it fails by measuring nature in dollars and cents. We need to develop a new concept of ‘life capital’ that must be preserved from exploitation and degradation no matter… Read More