Principles of health equity require that all people have equal opportunity to develop and maintain their health, yet in the face of widespread and presumptively inequitable health disparities, the law has done little. This paper argues that health equity demands the use of coercive legal mechanisms in certain circumstances given the existence of current disparities and the evidence of effectiveness of direct regulation as compared to its alternatives. Moreover, the paper argues that Healthy People 2020, which is the nation's “master blueprint for health” and explicitly seeks to achieve health equity, has not fully incorporated the principles of health equity in the formulation of its objectives and indicators because it fails to recognize the varying distributive effects of policies that could achieve population health targets. To truly incorporate the principles of health equity, Healthy People 2020 should advocate for those demonstrably effective coercive legal mechanisms that would both achieve its population health objectives and reduce health disparities.
Emily Whelan Parento, Health Equity, Healthy People 2020, and Coercive Legal Mechanisms as Necessary for the Achievement of Both, 58 Loy. L. Rev. 655 (2012).