Alex Broom is Professor of Sociology and Co-Director of the Practical Justice Initiative at The University of New South Wales (UNSW), Sydney. He is recognised as an international leader in the sociology of health and illness. His current focus is on developing critical analyses of the social dynamics of cancer and palliative care and the global challenge of antimicrobial resistance across contexts and cultures. Before joining UNSW he was an ARC Future Fellow at UQ from 2011-15.
The substantive focus of his recent critical sociological work has been on empirically mapping and theorising cancer, chronicity, and the end of life, and has featured in high-profile journals such as The Sociological Review (2016, 2017), Sociology (2015), Social Science and Medicine (2013, 2017), Subjectivity(2017), Qualitative Health Research (2016, 2017) and Critical Public Health (2017). These publications have largely focused on the phenomenology of illness, healing and survivorship, and the complexity of care (whether curative, supportive or palliative).
Responding to the Western-centricity of much previous sociological work on cancer, he also initiated a program of research on cancer in South Asia in 2005, and has since led studies on experiences of cancer care in India (e.g. Social Science & Medicine, 2009; Health, 2012, Qualitative Health Research, 2013, 2016; Critical Public Health, 2018), Sri Lanka (e.g. Public Health, 2010), and Pakistan (e.g. Qualitative Health Research, 2007), revealing the complex interplay of illness and cultural norms, structural violence, and tradition healing practices.
He also leads leads a program of research on the social dynamics of antimicrobial resistance, exploring such things as the role of habit and norms (Social Science and Medicine, 2014), inter-professional relations (Social Science and Medicine, 2015), institutionalised praxis (Qualitative Health Research, 2016), defensive medicine (Qualitative Health Research, 2017), and core-periphery relations (e.g. Health and Place, 2017) as shaping the capacity of health services to respond to this emerging global health crisis. For example, his recent work on the mediation of antibiotic use across the professions utilised sociologist Pierre Bourdieu’s ideas of habitus (Social Science and Medicine, 2014), Anselm’s Strauss’s negotiated order (Social Science and Medicine, 2015), Stovel’s work on brokerage (Qualitative Health Research, 2016), and Marx’s work on commodity fetishism (Qualitative Health Research, 2017), to advance a critical sociology of infection management in practice and address the social dimensions of antimicrobial mis-use and antimicrobial resistance.
Across all his projects Alex works regularly with a wide range of industry partners (e.g. hospitals, community organisations, professional organisations related to health and medicine) with a focus on improving people's experiences of illness and the delivery of healthcare. His program of research melds the conceptual richness of sociology with the value of applied, translational health research. He specialises in qualitative research, but employs a wide range of research methods to gain a better understanding of complex and emerging social problems.
He an investigator on over AU$8 million in competitive research grants, and currently holds Honorary/Visiting Professorial positions at King's College London (Department of Global Health and Social Medicine), The University of Vienna (Department of Political Science) and The University of Queensland (UQ Social Science & UQ Medicine).
He is also a PLuS Alliance Fellow - a partnership between King’s College London, Arizona State University and UNSW - working across the areas of Global Health and Social Justice.
A key strength of Alex's research program is its real-world relevance. While a key aspect of his research program is the development of critical sociological understandings of health, illness and wellbeing, the priority is delivering such understandings to as wide as possible an audience, making sociology relevant to practitioners, patients, consumers, health service providers, community groups and policy makers. This has involved multidisciplinary linkages, translational outcomes and exposing a multitude of grassroots audiences to the power and importance of a critical sociological approach. He currently works closely with hospitals and community health organisations across Australia, the United Kingdom and India, among other countries, utilising close ties with key industry stakeholders to solve pressing health and illness issues. His most recent work has involved collaboration with the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital, the Sunshine Coast Health and Hospital Service (Nambour), The Prince of Wales (Sydney), St Vincent's, the Mater Hospitals and Health Service (Brisbane), and Liverpool Hospital (Sydney). He welcomes new partnerships with health providers, community groups and those interested in better understanding and improving the health and wellbeing of Australians. He is currently co-director of Healthtalk Australia, which aims to promote and conduct qualitative research into personal experiences of health and illness, working in collaboration with the Health Experiences Research Group (HERG) at the University of Oxford, healthtalk.org (the DIPEx Charity UK), and DIPEx International.