Alex Broom is Professor of Sociology and Co-Director of the Practical Justice Initiative, Centre for Social Research in Health, 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 Australian Research Council Future Fellow at The University of Queensland from 2011-15.
His recent sociological work has been focused 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), The British Journal of Sociology (2018 in press), Sociology (2015), Social Science & 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), economic imperatives (e.g. Social Theory and Health, 2018) 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.
This program on antimicrobial resistance has recently included a focus on economically poorer contexts, examining the nexus of development, vulnerability and resistance. With a primary focus on India (e.g. Critical Public Health, 2018), this work examines how the global challenge of antimicrobial resistance is deeply embedded in the enduring politics and problems of (uneven) development, inequality and social justice.
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 is an investigator on over AU$8.5 million in competitive research grants, and currently holds Honorary/Visiting Professorial positions:
Visiting Professor, King's College London (Department of Global Health and Social Medicine) (2017-19)
Visiting Professor, The University of Vienna (Department of Political Science) (2018-19)
Honorary Professor The University of Queensland (UQ Social Science) (2015-2021)
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.
Selected Research Grants (total funding > $8.5 million AU):
2018-21 Australian Research Council Linkage Grant [LP170100300] Navigating an Uncertain Antimicrobial Future: A Sociological Study [Broom, Kirby, Davis, Dodds, Broom, Post] [ARC $318,473 and PO $100,000] Total = $418,437
2016-18 Australian Research Council Linkage Grant [LP160100100] Cultural Biographies, Medical Knowledges: A sociological study [Broom, Kirby, Kokanovic; Adams; Lwin; Wyld; Koh; de Souza; Woodland] $210,000 [ARC contribution] + [$816,962 cash/in-kind partner contributions]
2015-17 Australian Research Council Discovery Grant [DP150100414] The changing landscapes of survivorship: A sociological study of a life with cancer [Broom, Kirby, Yates, Oliffe, Seale] $359,700
2014-16 Australian Research Council Linkage Grant [ LP140100020] Unintended consequences? A sociological study of how social relations influence decisions about antibiotics [Broom, Kirby, Adams, Broom, Looke] $172,112 [Total cash and in-kind $450,396]
2014-16 Australian Research Council Discovery Grant [DP140100238] The rise of complementary self-care: A national sociological study of women's strategies for coping and living with chronic illness [Adams, Broom, Davidson, Sibbritt] $350,000
2012-15 Australian Research Council Linkage Grant [LP120200268] Pathways to and through palliative care: A sociological study of patient, carer and clinician experiences at the end of life. [Broom, Adams, Yates, Kirby, Good, Wootton, Hardy] $164,830 [Total cash and in-kind $591,411]
2011-15 Australian Research Council Future Fellowship [FT100100294] The changing landscapes of medical pluralism: a sociological analysis of patient experiences and decision making in Australia, India and Brazil. $656,448
2011-13 Australian Research Council Discovery Project [DP110104636] Navigating back pain care: a sociological study of women's illness pathways within and between intersecting social worlds. [Broom, Adams, Refshauge, Sibbritt] $391,622
2010-12 Australian Research Council Discovery Grant [DP1094765] Therapeutic pluralism in pregnancy, labour and birthing: Decision-making, communication and interprofessional dynamics [Adams, Broom, Gallois and Sibbritt] $270,000
2009-10 AUSAID Australian Development Research Awards Masculinities and Violence in Indonesia and India [Nilan, Broom et al] $116,526
2008-11 National Health and Medical Research Council Complementary medicine use among mid-age women: a national mixed-methods study across the urban-rural divide [Adams et al, Broom] $450,777