Health Care Analysis

, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp 111–119 | Cite as

Bad faith and victimblaming: The limits of health promotion

  • Charles J. Dougherty
Original Papers The Philosophy of Health Promotion


Two models of the relationship between individual behaviour and health status are examined. On the Freedom Model, the individual is presumed to be capable of free choices including many that have important health consequences. Freedom entails accountability. Thus individuals can be held responsible for health conditions that result from choices they have made. To hold otherwise—to refuse to acknowledge the freedom and responsibilities of individuals—is bad faith. On the Facticity Model, behaviour is a result of facts—genetic and environmental—beyond an individual's control. There is little or no freedom; people are the bodies and roles they inherit. Important among these facts is socio-economic position since it determines much of behaviour and resulting health status. Many people who are poor and lack education also suffer from poor health. To blame their poor health on their behaviour is to blame people already victimised by their circumstances. The relationships of these two models to health promotion are explored. Though conflicting in theory, some justice can be done to each model in the practical world of health promotion by appealing to the freedom in individuals in health education and to the facts that shape individuals in other health promotion and health care contexts.


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Copyright information

© John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Charles J. Dougherty
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for Health Policy and EthicsCreighton UniversityOmahaUSA

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