The purpose of this document is to equip public health actors to conduct a critical and nuanced ethical analysis of public health policies or population-based interventions accused or suspected of being paternalistic.

To deepen understanding of paternalism and help public health actors conduct this type of ethical analysis, this document has been structured around five main questions: 

  • What is paternalism?
  • What are some healthy public policies that have been called paternalistic?
  • Why might we be attracted to policies or interventions that have been called paternalistic in public health?
  • Why might (or should) we be reluctant to accept public policies that are called paternalistic?
  • How might we conduct an ethical analysis of policies that are called paternalistic?

In the final, more practical, section, we offer a three-step approach to conducting a more nuanced ethical analysis of population-based policies or interventions that are accused or suspected of being paternalistic.

To learn more, visit the website of the National Collaborating Centre for Healthy Public Policy - NCCHPP (

How Can We (and Why Should We) Analyze the Ethics of Paternalistic Policies in Public Health?



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