Breathe Clean Air  The Environment

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YINYANG

Sociology, Health or Disease ?

The realization that climate change is upon us and that it is largely man made is forcing people in all professions and walks of life to reflect upon the impact of our mind and speech, actions and inactions. Sociologists are required to ask whether our current practices will enable us to make contributions to the modification of human societies – ones that will help individual and groups to choose to live on the planet in ways that will allow social systems to remain relatively intact.

Reviewing key concepts of the discipline and their uses is part of this larger reflective project. This includes thinking about the concepts of health and disease. Contemplating these concepts can be done within a cause and effect schema.

I am asking questions, such as:

What are medical sociologists saying health looks like in a world dominated by advanced globalised neo-capitalism?

What are the conceptual, behavioral, and policy implications of using the notion of health and not disease as the ideational driver within medical, political, administrative, and academic discourses?

Would more effective socio-medical interventions be possible if research was organized around concrete experiences of disease and not ephemeral notions of health?

What alternative notions to health could be used within medical sociology to communicate about the actual as well as the potential bio-psycho-social statuses of human and non-human animals on the planet today?

One arena within which to place these explorations is the global environmental EcoHealth movement. Over the past twenty years medical and public health practitioners, natural scientists and ecologists, ecological economists and more recently social scientists have developed the inter-disciplinary EcoHealth movement.

A shared belief within this community is that by bringing together - in equal parts - the insights of ecology and medicine it is possible to produce both medical and public health systems that reflect the basic tenants of sustainable development. A hallmark of this approach is that a patient’s health is seen not only to be determined by her or his environment but is also an indicator of the health of that environment. Health should be confused with disease. Indeed we are not so concerned with healthy people but in helping people who already have diseases. A clear distinction between an Ecodisease movement rather than Ecohealth movement has social, political, and policy implications.

Maya Gislason, Associate Professor SFU


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