LEICESTER, England, Oct. 12 (UPI) — Public health in the past involved government to control infectious diseases but health issues today involve personal choice, a British researcher said.
Elizabeth Murphy, head of the University of Leicester’s College of Social Science, said public health issues have previously been amenable to government intervention because it involved improving sanitation, air quality, or controlling infectious disease.
However, public health issues today involve decisions of personal choice such as smoking, drinking and diet, which affect medical issues such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
In her inaugural lecture, Murphy said, “It is possible within states committed to respect for the autonomy and privacy of individuals, to promote the health and welfare of the population without riding roughshod over individual choice and freedom.”
For example, her lecture explained data from a study about the choices mothers make about feeding their babies during the first two years of the infants’ lives, including whether to breastfeed or bottle feed, can affect public health for decades. She considers how mothers endorse, negotiate, resist, reconstruct and refuse expert advice about infant nutrition.
“I shall discuss the ways in which health-related lifestyle choices have become increasingly moralized so that failure to conform to expert advice about health-promoting behaviors raises questions about one’s standing as a fit and proper person,” Murphy said in a statement.
Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.