198. Perpetuating Reductionist Understandings of Disease

Manuel Vallee, University of Auckland;

Since the 1950s social scientists have elucidated numerous health-impinging environmental factors, including environmental pollution, inequitable access to natural resources (including clean water, food, and air), socio-economic status, racial discrimination, unequal access to care, pharmaceutical side effects, medical errors, and political-economic structures, to name but a few. Despite this growing knowledge, however, reductionist understandings of disease continue to dominate in Western societies, which encourages people to situate the source of disease in individual bodies, rather than the contexts in which those bodies are embedded. This, in turn, has generated important ripple effects, with one being to channel people towards allopathic medical solutions. Another is undermining support for prevention efforts aimed at addressing the context, such as programs geared towards job creation, community-building, and protecting citizens from exposures to toxicants and harmful consumer products. This panel invites papers that explore issues related to the reductionist medical paradigm, which could include analyzing: 1) the dominant institutions that encourage reductionist understandings of disease (such as pharmaceutical manufacturers, medical associations, mass media, government agencies, and patient advocacy groups); 2) the strategies and tactics they deploy (including producing uncertainty and ignorance, failing to carry our necessary science, denialism, and suppressing inconvenient knowledge); 3) ideological factors that increase the effectiveness of those tactics; 4) structural drivers of the phenomenon (such as political economy); 5) who benefits from perpetuating reductionist understandings of disease and how; 6) who does not and why; 7) the social costs resulting from the phenomenon; and/or 8) attempts to address the problem.

Contact: m.vallee@auckland.ac.nz

Keywords: Medicine and Healthcare, medical sociology; medical ignorance; undone science; inconvenient knowledge; dominant health paradigms

Published: 04/07/2023