Public Health, Systems Change, Justice and the Work of the Kingdom

  • Robert E Aronson Taylor University
Keywords: social change, kingdom of God, public health, systems thinking, justice


Disparities in population health statuses are tied to inequities in society, and not just differences in personal decision-making and behavior.  Christians should (and must) play a role in confronting these inequities, based upon three biblical themes: 1) the instructions in the book of Leviticus regarding the Sabbath year and the Year of Jubilee as a way to protect the economic system from producing insurmountable inequities and degrading the environment; 2) the eschatological image of the New Jerusalem in the book of Isaiah, with its focus on Shalom in contrast to a religion focused on personal piety in the face of oppression and social injustice; and 3) Jesus’ teachings about the kingdom, which include its imminence and the counter-cultural nature of its ethic.  The notion of the kingdom can be applied in the lives of Christians (particularly those involved in public health) through individual acts, corporate acts in the context of the church, and state-led actions to bring about social change to achieve social justice. Social change can be described as an act of reconciliation in which systems of society are redeemed by the power of kingdom principles.


Author Biography

Robert E Aronson, Taylor University

Dr. Aronson is Professor of Public Health at Taylor University in Upland, Indiana.  His previous academic appointments have been at the University of North Carolina Greensboro and the University of Oklahoma, College of Public Health. He completed the doctor of public health degree in international health from Johns Hopkins University, and the Master of Public Health in health education from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


Tesh SN. Hidden arguments: political ideology and disease prevention policy. 4th ed. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press; 1996.

Porter D. Health, civilization, and the state: a history of public health from ancient to modern times. New York: Routledge; 1999.

Rosen G. A history of public health. New York: MD Publications, Inc.; 1958.

McKeown, T. The modern rise of population. Academic Press; 1976.

Omran AR. The epidemiologic transition: a theory of the epidemiology of population change. Milbank Quarterly. 2005;83(4):731-57.

Wilkinson RG, Marmot MG. Social determinants of health: the solid facts [Internet]. WHO. 2003. Available from:

Lalonde MA. New perspective on the health care of Canadians: a working document. Ottawa, ON: Government of Canada; 1974. Available from:

Fertman CI, Allensworth DD, Auld E. What are health promotion programs. In: Health promotion programs. From theory to practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass; 2010.

Glouberman S, Millar J. Evolution of the determinants of health, health policy, and health information systems in Canada. Am J Public Health. 2003;93(3):388-92.

World Health Organization. Ottawa charter for health promotion [Internet]. 1986; Available from:

Todd NR, Rufa AK. Social justice and religious participation: a qualitative investigation of Christian perspectives. Am J Commun Psychol. 2013;51(3-4):315-31.

Beauchamp, DE. Public health as social justice. Inquiry. 1976;13(1),3-14. Available from:

Beauchamp DE, Steinbock B (Eds). New ethics for the public's health. New York, NY: Oxford University Press; 1999.

Buchanan DR. An ethic for health promotion: rethinking the sources of human well-being. New York, NY: Oxford University Press; 2000.

Hofrichter R. (Ed.). Health and social justice: politics, ideology, and inequity in the distribution of disease [Vol. 11]. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass; 2003.

Levy BS, Sidel VW. Social injustice and public health. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. 2013.

Donohoe M. Public health and social justice [Vol. 31]. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons. 2012.

Emerson MO, Smith C. Divided by faith: evangelical religion and the problem of race in America. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, USA; 2000.

Tranby E, Hartmann D. Critical whiteness theories and the evangelical “race problem” extending Emerson and Smith's Divided by Faith. J Sci Study Relig. 2008;47(3): 341-59.

Moore RD. The Kingdom of God in the social ethics of Carl FH Henry: a twenty-first century evangelical reappraisal. JETS. 2012;55(2):377-98. Available from:

Henry CF. The uneasy conscience of fundamentalism. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans; 1947.

Pew Research Center. U.S. public becoming less religious[Internet]. 2015. Available from:

Bediako DK. The biblical sabbatical year and its implications for ecology: an exegesis of Exodus 23: 10-11. J Environ Sci Eng. 2013;2(6A):377. Available from:

Branca G, Lipper L, McCarthy N, Jolejole MC. Food security, climate change, and sustainable land management. a review. Agron Sustain Dev. 2013;33(4): 635-50.

Ladd GE. A theology of the New Testament. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company; 1993.

Naugle DK. Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God. Chuck Colson Ministries; 2010. [As cited by Willson TR]. Reclaiming the Kingdom of God metaphor for the twenty-first-century church. [cited 2018 Oct 12] Available from:

Ladd GE. The Gospel of the Kingdom. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company; 1959.