Economic rationalisation of health behaviours: The dangers of attempting policy discussions in a vacuum

Rachel Reilly, Kevin Rowley, Joanne Luke, Joyce Doyle, Rebecca Ritte, Rebekah O'Shea, Alex Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Citations (Scopus)


When analysing the health behaviours of any group of people, understanding the constraints and possibilities for individual agency as shaped by the broader societal context is critical. In recent decades, our understanding of the ways in which physical and social environments influence health and health behaviours has expanded greatly. The authors of a recent analysis of Australian Aboriginal health data using an economic 'rational choice model,' published in this journal, claim to make a useful contribution to policy discussions relating to Aboriginal health, but neglect context. By doing so, they neglect the very factors that determine the success or failure of policy change. Notwithstanding the technical sophistication of the analyses, by ignoring most relevant determinants of health, the conclusions misrepresent the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and therefore risk perpetuating harm, rather than improving health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)200-203
Number of pages4
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


  • Aboriginal health
  • Australia
  • Health inequalities
  • Health policy
  • Lifestyle
  • Rational choice model
  • Research ethics
  • Social determinants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science

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