A social prescription for a healthy life

October 16, 1998

This journal claims to publish "articles that deal with the changing place of health matters in society and in public consciousness" in the form of theoretical papers as well as empirical reports on issues of health and illness, together with their relationships to medical theory and practice. Cultural, ethical and societal phenomena are to be viewed as backgrounds for the maintenance and promotion of human health; interactions with specific social issues such as employment, reproduction, leisure, poverty, and the media are also included in the ambitious agenda. But so far, the apparent interests of the majority of recent contributors lean towards illness and disease rather than health per se or its promotion.

Stress is laid on the social study of health, illness and medicine: one issue contains a Foucauldian dialogue in relation to stories of illness expressed as care of the self and is a contentious contribution that one hopes will be read by health professionals as well as by their patients.

The empirical reports cover a variety of issues including health services and team-work evaluations. Specific topics include illness as moral occasion; mainstream approaches to mental health and illness as biased towards an emphasis on individuals; negotiations between doctor and patient as transforming suffering into disease (chronic fatigue syndrome); and the evaluation of a service supporting families caring for a child with sickle cell disorder.

One contribution reports an American study of safety behaviours of mothers with young children, conceptualised as "behavioural responses to risk mediated by cognitive, affective and structural factors". Such a "systems" approach, including cognitive models and other relevant factors, is to be welcomed since the field of child injury has hitherto been dominated by epidemiological approaches. Other reports examine the role of drugs in the lives of 200 14 to 25-year-old homeless drug users, and a cervical screening programme among 39 women in south-east Scotland.

Health also claims to be an interdisciplinary journal, but the majority of the contributions are not interdisciplinary. And there are a lot of journals claiming to fit the same niche as Health. If it is to succeed, it will need to improve the quality of its theoretical as well as empirical contributions. I agree with the journal's stance that health has much to do with patients' social and cultural contexts. But it cannot be denied that health involves difficult practical problems of measurement and analysis. These require attention, if not emphasis, in this journal.

Elvidina Nabuco Adamson-Macedo is senior lecturer in health psychology, University of Wolverhampton.

Health: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Social Study of Health, Illness and Medicine (4 times a year)

Editor - Alan Radley
ISBN - ISSN 1363 4593
Publisher - Sage
Price - £36.00 (individuals); £144.00 (institutions)
Pages - -

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