New Centre for Philosophy, Justice and Health at UCL

17 November 2008

A new Centre for Philosophy, Justice and Health (CPJH) has been created at UCL, set up as a partnership between many UCL departments, including Philosophy, Political Science, Laws, the Medical School and Epidemiology, with the aim to provide a UCL-based focus for research into distributive justice and health.

Water

Professor Jonathan Wolff, the Centre’s Director and Professor of Philosophy at UCL, believes that “recent organisational developments in biomedicine – such as the creation of the UCL Institute for Global Health, the International Institute for Society and Health, and the Comprehensive Biomedical Research Centre – are evidence of a strong interest on the part of those who work within biomedicine to pursue joint projects with other UCL faculties, especially those which do work on health and social values. At the same time, issues of health and distributive justice have become increasingly important in political philosophy and public policy”. 

Discussions between members of a number of different UCL faculties revealed a similar widespread desire to cross interdisciplinary boundaries in order to work on questions such as priority-setting in health care and health inequalities, and it was decided to set up a Centre for Philosophy, Justice and Health where such research can be conducted collectively, by a number of means: collaborative research projects and publication of papers, conferences, public engagement, workshops and reading groups, and MA and PhD supervision. 

Mother

“The general mission,” Professor Wolff said, “is to be able to equip a multidisciplinary team of scholars and students to play a central role in debates concerning distributive justice and health both in the domestic and global context. We are, for example, already advising an interdepartmental government group on the valuation of life and health.”

In the autumn term 2008–09, the Centre will run a graduate-level reading group on distributive justice in health, and 2009–10 will see the launch of a new MA course in the Philosophy, Politics and Economics of Health.

Future plans include securing funding for postdoctoral fellowships and for distinguished and junior visiting scholar programmes, as well as providing further conferences on such questions as the ethics of health screening and health inequality.

The CPJH’s launch conference, on ‘Justice and the Social Determinants of Health’, is going to take place on 8–9 December at Goodenough College and Senate House. Speakers include Professor Wolff, Professor Sir Michael Marmot (MRC Research Professor of UCL Epidemiology & Public Health), Professor Richard Wilkinson (Nottingham Social Epidemiology), Professor Gopal Sreenivasan (Crown Professor of Ethics, Duke University), Professor Dan Hausman (Herbert A. Simon Professor of Philosophy, University of Wisconsin-Madison), Dr James Wilson (Lecturer in Philosophy and Health, UCL), and Sridhar Venkatapuram (ESRC–DFID Research Fellow, Epidemiology, UCL). The conference is open to all and admission is free. To register, please contact Professor Wolff at j.wolff@ucl.ac.uk. 

To receive details of the Centre’s future activities, and other related events, please register for the mailing list here.

Professor Jonathan Wolff’s work has largely concentrated on issues of distributive justice, with a particular interest in the relation between theory and policy. He has recently worked on topics such as disadvantage, disability, risk and the measurement of health, and is principal applicant on the AHRC-funded project The Ethics of Risk. He is a member of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, and of the Nuffield Council Working Party on Personalised Healthcare, and has been a member of the Gambling Review Body, the Nuffield Council Working Party on the Ethics of Research Involving Animals, and the Academy of Medical Sciences Working Party on Brain Science and Addiction. Professor Wolff also regularly writes a column for the ‘Guardian’ (see the link at the top of this page).

***Photographs copyright Majority World: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/cpjh/majorityworld.