Health Agency and Perfectionism: The Case of Perinatal Health Inequalities

Hafez Ismaili M'hamdi*, Inez De Beaufort

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
17 Downloads (Pure)


Poor pregnancy outcomes and inequalities in these outcomes remain a major challenge, even in prosperous societies that have high-quality health care and public health policy in place. In this article, we propose that justice demands the improvement of what we call the 'health agency' of parents-to-be as part of a response to these poor outcomes. We take health agency to have three aspects: (i) the capacity to form health-goals one has reason to value, (ii) the control one perceives to have over achieving those health-goals and (iii) the freedom(s) one has to achieve those health-goals. We will moreover argue that this demand of justice can be best based on a perfectionist rather than neutralist method of justification. Subsequently, we will argue that perfectionist policy may be paternalistic but not wrongfully paternalistic. This leads us to conclude that perfectionism should be adopted to inform and justify public health policy that is aimed at improving health agency in general and counteracting poor pregnancy outcomes and inequalities in perinatal health outcomes in particular.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)168-179
Number of pages12
JournalPublic Health Ethics
Issue number2
Early online date24 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the ZonMw [85401 1004].

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s).


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