ISA World Congress of Sociology, Yokohama, Japan, July 2014

Research Committee on
Sociology of Health, RC15

RC15 main page

Program Coordinators

Number of allocated sessions including Business Meeting: 22.


For sessions program and schedule see

On-line congress program


Assisted Reproductive Technologies and the Sociological Imagination: New Conceptual Tools

Session Organizers
Ming-Cheng Miriam LO, University of California-Davis, USA,
Chia-Ling WU, National Taiwan University, Taiwan,

Session in English

In the last three decades, the proliferation of assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) has also given birth to renewed research interest in the intersections of the social and the technological. While this new literature has displayed rich sociological imagination, some empirical gaps and theoretical inadequacy exist.

This panel calls for papers to address how sociology can offer effective conceptual tools for addressing potential pitfalls in the current literature and thereby shape the future research trajectories of social studies of ARTs. This may include: how cultural and economic sociologies offer well-developed conceptual tools, in particular the literatures on the embeddedness of the market and the interaction between cultural and economic capitals, for analyzing the mutual constitution of the cultural and the material; how sociologies of organizations and professions can provide useful theoretical perspectives that explain how global and local organizational contexts and policy environments shape the cultural norms and regulatory mechanisms in potentially controversial medical practices; how the current literature on globalization and neoliberalism can further develop more rigorous theoretical perspectives about the globalization of ARTs; how the regulatory regimes and biotechnology industry regarding ARTs are becoming a transnational network.

Theoretically informed empirical studies are especially encouraged.


Collaborative Governance for Healthy Public Policies

Session Organizers
Louise BOUCHARD, Université d`Ottawa, Canada,
Joanne DE MONTIGNY, Université d`Ottawa, Canada,

Session in English/French

Collaboration among multiple stakeholder sectors, crossing various policy sectors, holds much promise and continues to garner wide-spread support, especially in the field of public and population health. The objective of this session is to explore theories and practices of intersectoral collaboration towards the development of healthy public policies.

Based on the definition proposed by Emerson and colleagues (2012), collaborative governance is the processes and structures of public policy decision making and management that engage people constructively across the boundaries of public agencies, levels of government, and/or the public, private and civic spheres in order to carry out a public purpose that could not otherwise be accomplished.

The collaborative-governance approach has major implications for the health of the population. Not only is the sustainability of the health system in jeopardy, with health care expenditures increasing exponentially, but also its role in improving and maintaining health is being seriously questioned. Social inequities in health are worsening: the rise of noncommunicable diseases and the continuing burden of infectious diseases and undernutrition among disadvantaged people, in addition to the global challenges arising from climate change and unequal trade policies. Response to this complex situation requires a paradigm shift regarding the governance of health systems, calling for attention on the concepts of integration, interdependence and collaboration.

This session aims to discuss ways to develop healthy public policies for a more sustainable and healthier future: What are the experiences of successful collaboration? What theories and models are at work? What are the conditions for collaborative governance?


Combining Public and Private Health Care Services – Better Health Care, More Choice, or the Entrenchment of Inequality?

Session Organizer
Karen WILLIS, Sydney University, Australia,
Session Co- Organizers
Fran COLLYER, Sydney University, Australia,
Kirsten HARLEY, Sydney University, Australia,
Marika FRANKLIN, Sydney University, Australia,

Session in English

Many health care systems around the world combine elements of public and private provision and funding, and hence seem to offer a range of choices for patients and health care professionals. But the notion of choice within public and private health care systems is contested; the capacity to choose is unequally distributed and influenced by information asymmetry, the public/private mix within a health care system, and the influence of key players such as professional and industry organisations. Challenges to existing asymmetries of choice include consumer movements and new technologies providing ready access to alternative sources of information. We invite papers that present sociological research on the development, organisation, construction and experience of public/private health care systems.


Cross-National Comparisons of Health Experiences

Session Organizers
Sue ZIEBLAND, University of Oxford, United Kingdom,
Rika Sakuma SATO, DIPEx, Japan,
Gabriele LUCIUS, University of Freiburg, Germany,
Susan LAW, St. Mary`s Hospital Center, Canada,
Sara RYAN, University of Oxford, United Kingdom,

Session in English

Cross-national comparative research is increasingly recognised as important in health research as reflected by various funding streams, such as the European Commission Framework, and assessments of research excellence. The Research Excellence Framework in the UK, for example, rewards international partnerships. Cross-national comparative research enables the identification of similarities and differences across two or more countries, the development of new perspectives and offers ‘fresh’ insights not necessarily gained in single country studies.

In this session we invite papers that use a cross-national comparative approach to understanding social and health inequalities. Contributors that use a qualitative approach are particularly welcome as qualitative research is less commonly used in this context. You might have used data from qualitative interviews, ethnographic observations, media discourse analysis or any other, social science informed, method. If you have studied more than one country and have observations to offer about inequalities in health experiences, or the delivery or uptake of services, we encourage you to submit an abstract.

We also welcome papers with a methodological focus, reflecting on the challenges, contributions or future directions of cross-natural comparative research.


Health Care Disparities and Inequalities

Session Organizer
Jennie Jacobs KRONENFELD, Arizona State University, USA,

Session in English

Disparities in health care and health outcomes are important concerns for researchers, providers, and policymakers. In the United States, the Institute of Medicine defines health care disparities as differences in treatment or access between population groups that cannot be justified by different preferences for services or differences in health. As researchers, we care most about health care disparities as they result in health disparities or inequalities, meaning differences in health outcomes across population groups. While in the United States, there has been focus on differences in access and quality across racial and ethnic groups, across the world there are multiple other social characteristics that also are of great importance, such as education, income, geographical location, gender and sexuality.


Health Inequalities in the Global South: Challenges and Possibilities

Session Organizers
Alex E. ASAKITIKPI, Monash University, Australia,
Miwako HOSODA, Seisa University, Japan,

Session in English

Since its annual health statistics were published in 1976 the WHO records have consistently displayed the sharp contrast in health indices between nations in the global south and those in the north, generally referred to in the literature as low income countries and rich income countries respectively. While there has been a significant progress in health care provision among low income countries (LICs) in the last five decades, the disparity is still huge giving rise to concerns for health care provision and how best to address it, especially within the context of global economic crisis and the HIV/AIDS pandemic that has ravaged most LICs, with the highest burden being in sub-Sahara African countries.

The focus of this session is concerned with the question of national and global social change, its interpretation and effects on health outcomes. Of specific interests are the historical forces that have influenced and shaped health policies among LICs as well as the various forms and dynamics of convergence between neoliberal reforms and health disparities in the global south. A general concern is how governments may mobilize, for example, social and cultural artifacts in designing appropriate health policies and providing health services for universal coverage and sustenance. We seek papers that will address these issues, either empirically and/or theoretically.


Health, Risk and Govermentalization in a OneHealth Concept Agenda

Session Organizers
Vitoria MOURAO, Instituto Superior de Ciencias Sociales y Políticas, Portugal,
Manuela VILHENA, University of Évora, Portugal,
Jorge TORGAL, Universidad Nacional del Litoral, Argentina,

Session in English

The financial crisis has put uncertainty and risk over the limits of public expenditure on health mainly in Europe. This political agenda sets limits on citizens’ rights, the health professionals power and the economic pressure groups that influence health politics.

The health policy process produces tensions between the actors and amplifies changes in public understandings of health, which opens a values debate on disthanasia and racionalization.

This session would like to address different viewpoints forms over the world on changes on health politics, citizens’ rights and, health economics. Papers may cover the following teaser suggestions:
  1. Health Politics tensions on a social economic constraint
  2. Unemployment and other social determinants of Health in a One Health Concept
  3. North and South divide on Social inequities
  4. Empowerment of citizens and communities on Health Dimensions
  5. Social Intervention Projects and Methodologies to reduce Vulnerability and Health
  6. Crisis, social mobility and Health


Medicalization and Globalization. Part I

Session Organizer
Peter CONRAD, Brandeis University, USA,

Session in English

Sociologists and others have been examining the increasing medicalization of human problems and conditions for four decades. The research suggests that the overwhelming amount of medicalization has occurred in North America, Western Europe and a few other countries. But in the past decade there has been increasing reports of medicalization of more conditions in a larger and more disparate array of countries worldwide.

This session will examine the globalization of medicalization. Papers should address issues such as the migration of medicalized categories, the emergence and/or application of medicalized categories (e.g. diagnoses) where they previously did not exist, support or resistance to global or local medicalization, conflicts or disputes over medicalized categories or conditions, the role of advocacy groups in globalizing medicalized definitions and treatments or how particular medical systems facilitate or limit medicalization.

Other topics of interest are what is the role of Western medicine (including psychiatry), the pharmaceutical industry, migration and international training of medical professionals, the access of the Internet, international aid, indigenous advocates or health workers, and other such vehicles in the global increase of medicalization. Are there examples of demedicalization in the global context? What are the social and medical consequences of medicalization? Are there cases with claims of overmedicalization or undermedicalization? Are the engines of medicalization different or similar in this global context? What is the future of globalized medicalization? Papers that cover any of these or related issues are welcome.


Medicalization and Globalization. Part II

Session Organizer
Peter CONRAD, Brandeis University, USA,

Session in English


Narrative Medicine or Narratives in Medicine?

Session Organizer
Guido GIARELLI, University Magna Grecia, Italy,

Session in English

In recent years, there has been a remarkable growth of interest in illness narratives, and the number of published studies and research findings of patients, carers and professionals’ accounts of illness, disability and discomfort has grown rapidly. Since the narrative turn has become an extremely fashionable area of inquiry for various disciplines, we have also witnessed the rise of the so-called ‘narrative based medicine’, in which attention to illness narratives is advocated as a core interest of medical practice itself, and narrative work is placed at the heart of medical professional competence, as a form of humanistic medical practice. However, beyond a mere celebration of illness narratives as the means to gain direct access to personal experience and to the subjective aspects of illness, there is still a need to draw on empirical narrative accounts in order to construct more comprehensive and systematic frameworks, integrating formal discourse analysis with sociological perspectives on social action and interaction.

This session welcomes both theoretical studies and research-based contributions aimed at focusing thoroughly on various dimensions and theoretical and methodological issues involved in the analysis of illness narratives and in the utilization of narratives in medicine: the kind of perspective adopted (symbolic interactionism, phenomenology, hermeneutic, etc.) and its strengths and weaknesses; the identification of the number of possible genres or types among illness narratives according to different social and cultural contexts; the kind of specific tropes (metaphors, similes, hyperboles, alliterations, puns, etc.) used in various accounts of ill-health, suffering, and embodiment; the identification of multiple social functions of illness narratives (biographical reconstitution, identity-work, political resistance, etc.); and analyses of the different ways personal experience and narrative accounts are related and used in medical practice.


Patient Participation and the Transformation of Professionals in Healthcare. Part I

Session Organizers
Miwako HOSODA, Seisa University, Japan,
Stephanie SHORT, University of Sydney, Australia,

Session in English

By exchanging information among international sociological scholars, this Session aims to explore changes in the relationship between patients and professionals by analysing patients’ interaction with the professionals in the healthcare field. This goal is associated with the main theme of this conference, facing an unequal world. It has been traditionally thought that there was an unbalanced relationship between patients and professionals; however, patient participation has been changing this hierarchical status.

We welcome papers from studies conducted at local, national and international levels that contribute to conceptualisation and/or methodological and empirical developments in this field. Examples include: the women`s health movement, workers` health, disability rights activism, and structural initiatives in particular health systems. This session addresses issues of agency, structure, identity, and power.


Patient Participation and the Transformation of Professionals in Healthcare. Part II

Session Organizers
Miwako HOSODA, Seisa University, Japan,
Stephanie SHORT, University of Sydney, Australia,

Session in English


Patients` Rights in a Comparative Perspective: Emergence, Appropriation, New Claims-Making

Session Organizers
Philippe BATAILLE, Centre d`Analyse et d`Intervention Sociologiques, France,
Sandrine BRETONNIERE, Centre d`Analyse et d`Intervention Sociologiques, France,

Session in English/French

Patients` rights have been fostered by different phenomena in heterogeneous cultural contexts: biomedical research and the need to protect human subjects gave rise to patient-centered bioethics in the US in the 1970s (Shepherd, Hall, 2010); the AIDS epidemic served as a powerful catalyst in the constitution of patients as social actors in the French political arena in the 1980s (Barbot, 2002; Dodier, 2003). The mobilization of cancer patients in the 1990s, also in France, led the state to promote a patients` rights bill of law in 2002.

In this panel, we propose to examine the impact patients` rights have had within the medical realm and the public sphere at large, in an international perspective: This panel will also seek to debate methodological issues, from an interdisciplinary standpoint: how can these phenomena be studied? How are they being apprehended by social scientists?


Pharmaceuticalization and Social Inequalities: A Chance to Re-Connect Sociology With Social Justice? Special session on conference theme

Session Organizers
Antonio MATURO, University of Bologna, Italy,
Johanne COLLIN, University of Montreal, Canada,

Session in English

Today, not only doctors are promoting the medicalization of society. There are other “engines of medicalization”: consumers, managed care, technology. Moreover, new diagnostic criteria enlarge the pathological sphere and shrink what can be considered normal. Medicine is not anymore only concerned with healing, but also with human enhancement: the enhancement of cognition, emotions and even of human species (through genetic screening and intervention). To study these new phenomena new concepts like pharmaceuticalization, biomedicalization and genetization are proposed.

Even if sociology has proposed deep analysis on these new trends it has not said much about their consequences in terms of social justice and social inequalities. For instance, what is the sociological meaning of much higher rates of antidepressant prescriptions among the poor’s or unhealthy groups in Western societies? What is the relation between increasing inequality of wealth and psychotropic drug consumption? Starting from the assumption that medicalization and pharmaceuticalization leads to the individualization of social problems, which new field of analysis and investigation could sociology undertake in order to broaden the discussion on medicalization/pharmaceuticalization and social inequailites?


RC15 Business Meeting


Sleep, Health and Society

Session Organizers
Jonathan GABE, University of London, United Kingdom,
Simon WILLIAMS, University of Warwick, United Kingdom,

Session in English

Sociologists have only relatively recently started to pay attention to the relationship between sleep and health, partly in recognition of the growth of diagnosed sleep disorders and partly because of public debate about the demands of modern life, in today’s non-stop, 24/7, "wired" culture. Poor sleep is said to impair health and quality of life, endanger safety at work and on the road and affect family relations.

This session invites papers on these issues. How is sleep socially patterned and organised in terms of, for example, age and gender? To what extent has sleep been medicalised and pharmaceuticalised? What role do commercial and professional interests play in the management of sleep? What are the social consequences of disturbed sleep in the workplace and at home? And to what extent has sleep been customised to optimise bodily productivity?


Sociology of Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Session Organizer
Nelson BARROS, University of Campinas, Brazil,

Session in English/Spanish

Despite remarkable advances achieved by the biomedical model of health, there has been an exponential growth in the use and in the interest in Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). The increasing popularity of CAM over the last five decades has been followed by a proliferation of sociological research on different dimensions of this phenomenon. In this context, CAM has attracted social researchers to establish the field of Sociology of Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

The aim of the present session is to debate Sociology of CAM through diverse analytical and empirical research on CAM dynamics. The intended session attempts to deepen sociological debate on the re-emergence of heterodox practices of medical care and on the impact of that on contemporary Western society.


Sociology of Diagnosis Session

Session Organizer
Annemarie JUTEL, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand,

Session in English

While diagnosis is important in identifying and curing disease, it also has a strong social impact. Diagnosis can be a source of anxiety or of relief, of hope or of despair. It structures the experience of health and illness, deciding what counts as normal, defining who is responsible for what disorders, providing frameworks for communication and structuring relationships. It presents a point around which tensions may develop, and interests collide. This session will focus on the sociology of diagnosis. It will adumbrate diagnosis as both category and process and will discuss the variable consequences of diagnoses on the experiences of health and illness.

This session will explore the classificatory process of diagnosis, focusing on how diagnosis plays a role in distinguishing lay from professional, sick from bad, health from illness. It will also reflect on diagnosis as a source of power, resources, and subversion. And finally, papers in this session will analyse the impact of diagnosis on health outcomes and social outcomes. Preference will be given to papers which engage with diagnosis at meta analytic level, that is to say, which, even while focusing on a specific diagnosis, or a specific aspect of the diagnostic process, relate to the structural function of diagnosis at a more general level.


Understanding ‘Stigma’ and HIV/AIDS: A Social Scientist’s Challenge

Session Organizer
Leah GILBERT, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa,

Session in English

‘Stigma’ and its relationship to health and disease is not a new phenomenon. It has been studied and examined in relation to various conditions like epilepsy, mental health and others. However, it has not been a major feature in the public discourse until the emergence of HIV/AIDS and the range of negative sentiments and responses associated with it that placed ‘stigma’ on the public agenda and drew attention to its complexity as a phenomenon and concept worthy of further investigation by the academic community.

As early as 1987, Jonathan Mann the former head of the World Health Organization`s global AIDS programme, highlighted what he termed the ‘third epidemic’ which he described as “the social, cultural, economic and political reaction to AIDS [which] is as central to the global challenge as AIDS itself”. Some thirteen years later, ‘stigma’ was again placed at the top of the list of ‘the five most pressing items on [the] agenda for the world community’, by Peter Piot, the Executive Director of UNAIDS, at the 10th meeting of the agency’s Programme Coordinating Board in 2000. The focus on ‘stigma’ has steadily increased throughout the course of the epidemic, even becoming the focus of the World AIDS Campaign for the years 2002– 2003. Yet despite its now prominent place in the public discourse as well as in scholarly literature, HIV/AIDS-related stigma remains intact and continues to be a serious public health concern as well as a challenge to social scientists.

This session will include papers that address this challenge of understanding ‘stigma’ in relation to HIV/AIDS.


Women, Health and Health Care

Session Organizer
Jennie Jacobs KRONENFELD, Arizona State University, USA,

Session in English

Health and health care utilization vary by many social characteristics, of which gender is one. This session will focus on a variety of issues linked to gender differences in health and health care, with a greater focus on women overall. Papers could examine health outcome differences, differences in reaction to health and illness, health care issues unique to women such as issues linked to pregnancy and reproductive health issues and issues linked to health care delivery, such as issues in access to care and quality of care. The focus is on gender linked to health and health care, not to issues about women as health care providers.


Joint Sessions

Click on the session title to read its description and the scheduled day/time.

Globalization and Human Resources for Health in Asian Countries

Joint session of RC15 Sociology of Health and RC52 Sociology of Professional Groups [host committee]


Governing the Health Professions: Bringing Equality into Health Human Resources Policy

Joint session of RC15 Sociology of Health and RC52 Sociology of Professional Groups [host committee]


Health and Social Care in the Context of Population Aging

Joint session of RC11 Sociology of Aging and RC15 Sociology of Health [host committee]


Healthcare Systems and Health Inequalities

Joint session of RC15 Sociology of Health and RC19 Poverty, Social Welfare and Social Policy [host committee]


Leisure and the Pursuit of Health and Happiness in an Unequal World

Joint session of RC13 Sociology of Leisure [host committee] and RC15 Sociology of Health


Religion, Immigrants, and Health

Joint session of RC15 Sociology of Health , RC22 Sociology of Religion [host committee] and RC31 Sociology of Migration


Time on the Context of Health and Illness: the Medical Control of the Body

Joint session of RC15 Sociology of Health [host committee] and RC54 The Body in the Social Sciences



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