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Jennifer Prah Ruger

Amartya Sen Professor of Health Equity, Economics, and Policy; Associate Dean for Global Studies; Faculty Chair, Center for High Impact Philanthropy (CHIP); and Director of the Ortner Center on Violence and Abuse, University of Pennsylvania

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About Jennifer

Ruger is a leading scholar of global and domestic health policy and public health. She conducts theoretical and empirical studies of health equity to address global and national health inequities with a focus on the most impoverished and vulnerable populations worldwide, especially women and children. Ruger draws on her training in political economy, health policy, international relations, comparative social research and law to cross disciplines and reexamine the principles and values that underlie health policy and public health and apply these principles empirically. She created the health capability paradigm, challenging existing approaches and illuminating optimal health policies and she has developed an empirical approach to evaluate public health programs and health policies as they measure up to that paradigm. Ruger studies health policy and public health problems such as the equity and efficiency of health system access, financing, resource allocation, policy reform and the social determinants of health. Her scholarship includes areas such as global health justice; global health governance; health and social justice; and shared health governance. Her research is conducted internationally and nationally, including work in Ghana, India, Indonesia, Malawi, Malaysia, Morocco, South Korea, South Africa, the United States and Vietnam.

Ruger was a member of the Institute of Medicine’s Board on Global Health; the Ethics Subcommittee of the Advisory Committee to the Director at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Institute of Medicine’s Committee to Evaluate The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. She has served on several international and national advisory and expert review committees. She is the past Chair and Program Chair of the Ethics Special Primary Interest Group of the American Public Health Association. She was previously the Co-Director of the Yale-World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Health Promotion, Policy and Research. She served previously at the World Bank as health economist and speechwriter to president James D. Wolfensohn and on the health and development satellite secretariat of WHO Director-General Gro Harlem Brundtland’s Transition Team. In 2014, she was elected as a lifetime member of the Council on Foreign Relations.


The Moral and Economic Case for Health Insurance

In the News

Jennifer Prah Ruger quoted on proposing a global health constitution and a global institute of health and medicine to establish shared rules by Kristina Garcia, "Global Health Justice and Governance" Penn Today News, June 2, 2021.
"A Healthy Constitution," Jennifer Prah Ruger, Health and Well Being, Royal Society of Arts , September 25, 2020.
"How Prepping for Pandemics Can Lead to Big Economic Returns," Jennifer Prah Ruger, CNN, April 11, 2020.
Interview on Imagining a Justice-Based Health System Jennifer Prah Ruger (with Isaac Chotiner), The New Yorker, March 31, 2020.
Interview on Health Equity in a Time of Global Crisis Jennifer Prah Ruger (with Kristina García), Penn Today News, March 25, 2020.
"Reforming Health Care in America," Jennifer Prah Ruger, Interview with Michael Greenwood and Denise Meyer, Yale School of Public Health, April 9, 2012.
Jennifer Prah Ruger's research on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act discussed by YaleNews Staff, "Professor Cited in Brief to U.S. Supreme Court on New Public Health Law," YaleNews, February 3, 2012.


"Global Health Justice: Reflections on Prah Ruger" Global Health Justice and Governance Special Symposium Issue 16, no. 1 (2021): 57.

Contends that global and national responses to health governance must be grounded in moral and ethical claims about health. Analyzes the current public health problems of a globalized world, frames the norms by which global health policy should be structured, examines the current global health architecture,

"Social Justice as a Foundation for Democracy and Health" British Medical Journals (2020).

 Uses the COVID-19 pandemic to show the importance of a country’s implementing a justice framework for health and equality.

Health, Disability and the Capability Approach (with Sophie Mitra) (Routledge Press, 2017).

Focuses on two areas of substantial and growing importance to the human development and capability approach: health and disability. The research on disability, health and the capability approach has been diverse in the topics it covers, and the conceptual frameworks and methodologies it uses, beginning over a decade and a half ago in health and more than a decade ago in disability. Shares a set of contributions in these two areas: the first set of chapters focusing on disability; and the second set focusing on health and the health capability paradigm in particular.

"Global Health Inequalities and Justice" in Understanding Health Inequalities and Justice: New Conversations across the Disciplines, edited by Mara Buchbinder, Michele Rivkin-Fish, Rebecca L. Walker (University of North Carolina Press, 2016), 64-87.

Discusses some of the challenges of global health inequalities and the current global health policy system and some of the components of the provincial globalism and shared health governance frameworks.

"Governing for the Common Good" Health Care Anlysis 23, no. 4 (2015): 341-351.

Argues that the proper object of global health governance should be the common good, ensuring that all people have the opportunity to flourish. 

"The Elusive Right to Health Care under U.S. Law" (with Theodore W. Ruger and George J. Annas). The New England Journal of Medicine 372, no. 26 (2015): 2558-2563.

Explores a more nuanced picture of language surrounding a right to healthcare in the US law.

"Shared Health Governance" American Journal of Bioethics 11, no. 7 (2011): 32-45.
Pioneers an original theory of social cooperation for governing health domestically.
Health and Social Justice (Oxford University Press, 2009).
Offers an imaginative new theoretical framework for the analysis of health and healthcare disparities at the intersection of ethics, economics and politics in health and healthcare.
"Global Health Justice" Public Health Ethics 27, no. 3 (2009): 261-275.
Develops components of a theory of global health justice, based on universal ethical norms (general duty) with shared global and domestic responsibility (specific duties) for health. Puts forth a view called ‘provincial globalism’ as a mean between nationalism and cosmopolitanism, in which a local consensus must accompany a global consensus on health morality. This account is grounded in global and national duties to promote human flourishing and, more specifically, individuals’ central health capabilities.
"Moral Foundations of Health Insurance" Quarterly Journal of Medicine 100, no. 1 (2007): 53-57.
Offers a novel moral framework for analyzing health insurance, which has become increasingly important in the current health reform debate around the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. This article has been cited during legal proceedings in the Supreme Court and in California, Florida, Virginia and Michigan in support of the argument that healthcare markets are unique and therefore minimum coverage provisions are a necessary and proper means of government regulation.
"Ethics and Governance of Global Health Inequalities" Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 60, no. 11 (2006): 998-1003.
Was one of the first studies to demonstrate why global health inequalities are morally troubling, why efforts to reduce them are morally justified, and how they should be measured and evaluated.
"Measuring Disparities in Health Care" British Medical Journal 333, no. 7562 (2006): 274.
Illustrates how shortfalls in healthcare quality are more meaningful than differences between socio-demographic groups. It has been cited in Milbank Quarterly and Bulletin of the World Health Organization.