Ideology, Class, and How We Talk About Disease by ProQuest


After the emergence of HIV/AIDS, and more recently, SARS and H1N1, public concern over epidemics and disease has heightened in both advanced industrialised and less developed regions. The argument presented in this article is that all those interested in health inequality ought to examine critically the founding assumptions of the modern public health enterprise and the ways in which those assumptions persist today-and not always for the better. I discuss a strong behavioural current present in early Victorian public health thought that often blamed the most frequent victims of disease for their illness rather than consequences of industrialisation, such as economic deprivation, sub-standard housing, and punitive labour and social welfare policies. A by-product of laissez-faire economic ideas of the time, this strand, it is argued, has continued for more than two centuries in social policy and in public health; several examples are provided to demonstrate this. With the consolidation of a so-called neo-liberal regime in the past three decades, this way of talking about the most vulnerable may prove especially appealing. But at the same time, a small but growing body of public health research has greatly expanded our analytical boundaries and may help us dislodge the historically enduring framework of individual blame. [PUBLICATION ABSTRACT]

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