Health Care Analysis

, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 261–276 | Cite as

Human Health and the Environment: In Harmony or in Conflict?

  • David B. ResnikEmail author
Original Article


Health policy frameworks usually construe environmental protection and human health as harmonious values. Policies that protect the environment, such as pollution control and pesticide regulation, also benefit human health. In recent years, however, it has become apparent that promoting human health sometimes undermines environmental protection. Some actions, policies, or technologies that reduce human morbidity, mortality, and disease can have detrimental effects on the environment. Since human health and environmental protection are sometimes at odds, political leaders, citizens, and government officials need a way to mediate and resolve conflicts between these values. Unfortunately, few approaches to applied bioethics have the conceptual tools to do accomplish this task. Theories of health care ethics have little to say about the environment, and theories of environmental ethics don’t say much about human health. In this essay, I defend an approach to ethical decision-making that gives policy-makers some tools for balancing promotion of human health and protection of the environment.


Human health Environment Ethics Policy Bioethics Malaria 



Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention




Environmental Protection Agency



This research was supported by the intramural program of the NIEHS/NIH. It does not represent the views of the NIEHS or NIH.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), National Institutes of Health (NIH)Research Triangle ParkUSA

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