Moralism, Politics, and the Construction of Health Policy

Award Year:
James Morone
History of Health Policy and Public Health, Politics and Policymaking
Dr. Morone investigates how morality influences health politics and policy. He: 1) designs a model that suggests how the political process changes when actors define policy questions in moral terms - e.g., irresponsible behavior or undeserving beneficiaries; 2) applies this analytic framework to six major health policy issues; and 3) contributes to health policy by explaining the latent moral politics that underlie contemporary approaches and programs. The study focuses on illegal drugs, alcohol, tobacco, AIDS, universal health care coverage, and teen pregnancy. Using an historical approach, it shows how popular images of vice and virtue influence each issue and draws lessons across policy areas generally studied in isolation. Particular emphasis is placed on several themes including: the issue of race and the use of moral politics as a coded way to inject racial bias into health policy debates; variations on the question of education and treatment versus prohibition and punishment; and the role of stigma and stereotyping in the politics of health policy.