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BioMed Research International
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 801614, 7 pages
Review Article

Sustainability at the Edge of Chaos: Its Limits and Possibilities in Public Health

1School of Social Work, Salem State University, 352 Lafayette Street, Salem, MA 01945, USA
2Department of Sociology, Salem State University, Salem, MA 01970, USA

Received 2 April 2013; Revised 19 July 2013; Accepted 21 July 2013

Academic Editor: Konstantin J. Dedes

Copyright © 2013 Christopher G. Hudson and Yvonne M. Vissing. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


This paper critically reviews the expanding literature on applications of sustainability to healthcare policy and planning. It argues that the concept has been overgeneralized and has become a buzzword masking disparate agendas. It ignores the insights of the newest generation of systems theory on complex systems on the ubiquity of far-from-equilibrium conditions. Yet, a central meaning often ascribed to sustainability is the level continuation of healthcare programs and their institutionalization. Sustainability is only coherent in health care when it is more narrowly delimited to involve public health and treated as only one of several evaluative criteria that informs not only the continuation of programs but more often their expansion or contraction as needs dynamically change.