What are governments for?

Martin McKee and Ruth Colagiuri
Med J Aust 2007; 187 (11): . || doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.2007.tb01462.x
Published online: 3 December 2007

Government actions to protect the public’s health are not always consistent

What, if anything, will move a government to intervene to improve the health of its population? Government action seems to depend not on how many people will die if it fails to act but rather who they are and how they will die.When almost 3000 people died after aircraft were flown deliberately into buildings in Washington and New York in 2001, the United States government moved rapidly, with no regard for cost. In an unprecedented move, it immediately grounded all aircraft flying over the US, allowing them to fly again only subject to sweeping restrictions on what could be taken on board. Had the government failed to act rapidly, it would undoubtedly have faced widespread condemnation, not least from the representatives of corporate America, which had, in the attack on New York, been the target of mass murder.

  • Martin McKee1
  • Ruth Colagiuri2,3,4

  • 1 European Centre on Health of Societies in Transition, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK.
  • 2 Australian Health Policy Institute, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW.
  • 3 School of Public Health, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW.
  • 4 Oxford Health Alliance Asia Pacific Regional Centre, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW.



remove_circle_outline Delete Author
add_circle_outline Add Author

Do you have any competing interests to declare? *

I/we agree to assign copyright to the Medical Journal of Australia and agree to the Conditions of publication *
I/we agree to the Terms of use of the Medical Journal of Australia *
Email me when people comment on this article

Online responses are no longer available. Please refer to our instructions for authors page for more information.