Conceptualising health: insights from the capability approach

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[Introduction] Ongoing debate within the philosophy of medicine concerns how concepts central to healthcare (e.g. health, disease, etc.) should be defined. One of the difficulties of this debate is that various interested parties have different needs with respect to such concepts. Some take a theorist’s perspective, and prioritise conceptual clarity and rigor. Others are more concerned with providing concepts that can be useful to real-life medical practice. And others are more concerned with wider policy and health-promotion issues, and seek a concept of health usable in a globalised context. In this paper we want to suggest adopting a ‘capability approach’ to health and related concepts. Such an approach captures much of the best theoretical and conceptual work on these issues, while also being applicable to real life cases and actual practice. With roots in development ethics and economics, the capability approach is well-suited to policy-making and health-promotion in a global context.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)303-14
Number of pages12
JournalHealth Care Analysis
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2008


  • Capability approach
  • Disease
  • Definition of health
  • Health
  • Illness
  • Concepts in healthcare


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