Lifestyle diseases: Responsibility and Ethics - Helsinki 11 -12 June 2018

The tentative programme for the conference can be found here

Non-communicable diseases (NCD), such as arteriosclerotic vascular disease, heart diseases and stroke, osteoporosis and Type II diabetes, are associated with certain behavioral choices and ways of living. According to Eurostat and the WHO, life expectancy in Europe is currently decreasing due to smoking, drinking and obesity.

The massive evidence on the ways in which NCDs can be prevented and treated by citizens’ lifestyle adjustments has come to orient the ways in which their prevalence and harm are regulated in societies. However, a rigorous appliance of such a scheme is known to involve also some ethical dilemmas.

The aim of this conference is to address the new emphasis on the individual’s responsibility and choices in view of collectivist health policies and solidary-based welfare systems. It strives at unfolding the concept of lifestyle disease and its interaction with ethical dimensions of governance. There is a need to address these questions in view of the in the Nordic welfare state ethos’ strong principles pertaining to institutional collectivism, inclusion and universalist principles of service provision.

The conference will, to begin with, address the current health situation in Europe with regards to lifestyle-related diseases. What are their root causes and political implications?

Second, the conference provides a forum for public health and social science research to discuss ethical considerations surrounding lifestyle-related disease and its governance principles in the Nordics and elsewhere. These include aspects of how to address responsibility (individual vs. society), as well as the role of corporate behaviour in corruption of health and well-being. Examples are presented from the fields of alcohol, drugs and gambling in order to highlight the ways in which poor health choices are attached to an individualized health agenda, and influenced by neoliberal policies and corporate power. Moderating intake of fat, sugar and salt is also presented as cases in point.

The event will end with a panel discussion concerning the existing and possible instruments for influencing people’s lifestyles in contemporary Nordic welfare societies. The fiscal interests related to consumption of addictive products are high, and politics catering for interests of alcohol, food, and gambling industry all stress individual responsibility (“responsible” consumption).

The conference is targeted at academics, policy makers, industry representatives, public health professionals, and the general public. It is free of charge, but participants cover their own travel and accommodation.

Venue: Unioininkatu Juhlahuoneisto (Unioninkatu 33, Helsinki City Center)

The event will relate to the NcBio -conference “Hard Choices 2.0” in Stockholm in November 2017, by looking at the other side of the coin, namely the one of reaching a further understanding of the concept of lifestyle disease and its relationship to concepts such as the one of addiction.

Contact: Senior Adviser Marianne Minge (NordForsk)