Sean Valles is an Associate Professor with a dual appointment in the Michigan State University Lyman Briggs College and the Department of Philosophy. His research spans a range of topics in the philosophy of population health, from the use of evidence in medical genetics to the roles played by race concepts in epidemiology. He is author of the the 2018 book, Philosophy of Population Health: Philosophy for a New Public Health Era. He is also Director of the MSU Science and Society @ State Program, supporting interdisciplinary faculty collaborations that join the humanities, arts, and sciences.
Industry Expertise (2)
Areas of Expertise (9)
Philosophy of Population Health
Race in Science
Climate Change Philosophy
Population Health Ethics
Public Health Ethics
Philosophy of Science
Race in Medicine
Indiana University: Ph.D., History and Philosophy of Science 2010
Journal Articles (10)
Philosophy of Population HealthPhilosophy for a New Public Health Era, 1st Edition
Sean A. Valles
2018 Population health has recently grown from a series of loosely connected critiques of twentieth-century public health and medicine into a theoretical framework with a corresponding ﬁeld of research—population health science. Its approach is to promote the public’s health through improving everyday human life: afford-able nutritious food, clean air, safe places where children can play, living wages, etc. It recognizes that addressing contemporary health challenges such as the prevalence of type 2 diabetes will take much more than good hospitals and public health departments.
Some Comments about Being a Philosopher of Color and the Reasons I Didn’t Write a (Real) Paper for this (Seemingly) Ideal Venue for my WorkKennedy Institute of Ethics
Sean A. Valles
2016 This special issue conspicuously lacks work by Philosophers of Color (with the exception of this commentary). I have been given this opportunity to discuss the impediments that kept me from submitting my relevant work, offered as a small step toward recognizing the impediments faced by other Philosophers of Color. I highlight factors including direct and indirect consequences of a disproportionately White community of US philosophers, and some underrecognized risk-reward calculations that Philosophers of Color face when choosing an article project. I urge further discussion of the topic, starting with an exhortation to choose the right phenomenon and accordingly frame the right question: Why are White philosophers deliberating the “ethical and social issues arising out of the 2016 US presidential election” in a prestigious journal, while Philosophers of Color are deliberating the same issues in tense classrooms, closed offices, and on-/off-campus forums?
The challenges of choosing and explaining a phenomenon in epidemiological research on the “Hispanic Paradox”Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics
Sean A. Valles
2016 According to public health data, the US Hispanic population is far healthier than would be expected for a population with low socioeconomic status. Ever since Kyriakos Markides and Jeannine Coreil highlighted this in a seminal 1986 article, public health researchers have sought to explain the so-called “Hispanic paradox.” Several candidate explanations have been offered over the years, but the debate goes on. This article offers a philosophical analysis that clarifies how two sets of obstacles make it particularly difficult to explain the Hispanic paradox.
Census categories for mixed race and mixed ethnicity: impacts on data collection and analysis in the US, UK and NZPublic Health
Sean A. Valles
2015 The census mixed race/ethnicity classification systems in the US, UK and NZ are reviewed. These systems have limited success for monitoring mixed populations' health.
Coupled Ethical–Epistemic Analysis of Public Health Research and Practice: Categorizing Variables to Improve Population Health and EquityAJPH
Sean A. Valles
2014 The categorization of variables can stigmatize populations, which is ethically problematic and threatens the central purpose of public health: to improve population health and reduce health inequities. How social variables (e.g., behavioral risks for HIV) are categorized can reinforce stigma and cause unintended harms to the populations practitioners and researchers strive to serve. Although debates about the validity or ethical consequences of epidemiological variables are familiar for specific variables (e.g., ethnicity), these issues apply more widely.
Heterogeneity of Risk within Racial Groups, a Challenge for Public Health ProgramsPreventative Medicine
2012 Targeting high-risk populations for public health interventions is a classic tool of public health promotion programs. This practice becomes thornier when racial groups are identified as the at-risk populations. I present the particular ethical and epistemic challenges that arise when there are low-risk subpopulations within racial groups that have been identified as high-risk for a particular health concern.
Should direct-to-consumer personalized genomic medicine remain unregulated?: a rebuttal of the defensesPerspectives in Biological Medicine
2012 Direct-to-consumer personalized genomic medicine has recently grown into a small industry that sells mail-order DNA sample kits and then provides disease risk assessments, typically based upon results from genome-trait association studies.
volutionary Medicine at Twenty: Rethinking Adaptationism and DiseaseBiology & Philosophy
2012 Two decades ago, the eminent evolutionary biologist George C. Williams and his physician coauthor, Randolph Nesse, formulated the evolutionary medicine research program. Williams and Nesse explicitly made adaptationism a core component of the new program, which has served to undermine the program ever since, distorting its practitioners’ perceptions of evidentiary burdens and in extreme cases has served to warp practitioner’s understandings of the relationship between evolutionary benefits/detriments and medical ones.
Evolutionary Medicine at Twenty: Rethinking Adaptationism and DiseaseBiology & Philosophy
2011 Two decades ago, the eminent evolutionary biologist George C. Williams and his physician coauthor, Randolph Nesse, formulated the evolutionary medicine research program. Williams and Nesse explicitly made adaptationism a core component of the new program, which has served to undermine the program ever since, distorting its practitioners’ perceptions of evidentiary burdens and in extreme cases has served to warp practitioner’s understandings of the relationship between evolutionary benefits/detriments and medical ones.
Lionel Penrose and the Concept of Normal Variation in Human IntelligenceStudies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Lionel Penrose (1898-1972) was an important leader during the mid-20th century decline of eugenics and the development of modern medical genetics. However, historians have paid little attention to his radical theoretical challenges to mainline eugenic concepts of mental disease.