Theories of health are central to our ability to understand what we value when we value health, what we measure when we measure health, and what we mean by terms such as ‘value-based healthcare’. In this paper, I argue that many of the most influential theories of health have trouble adequately describing the relationship between disability and health. The result is both an impoverished understanding of health and, potentially, harm to disabled people. In response to these problems, I argue for an alternative theory of health that can more successfully explain the relationship between disability and health.
Elizabeth Barnes works on metaphysics, social philosophy, and feminist philosophy - and is particularly interested in the areas where these subjects interact. She's currently writing a book on disability and thinking a lot about the metaphysics of social structures. She's also the editor of Philosophy Compass.