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Health & Illness

The health and illness experiences of our communities are intimately tied to existing and emerging forms of inequality and the dynamics of disadvantage. Health problems and community ‘disease profiles’ in many respects articulate problems of social justice, with those with fewer opportunities more exposed to illness and often poorer forms of healthcare.

The health stream within the Practical Justice Initiative focuses on critical exploration of the key contemporary health issues facing individuals and communities, with an emphasis on understanding lived experience, facilitating greater equity in illness and wellness experiences, and working towards more inclusive care practices. The area of health and wellbeing research at UNSW Arts & Social Sciences is distinctive in a number of ways, including a specific focus how social factors, policies and programs shape the health and wellbeing of vulnerable communities.

Working with key health problems (e.g. cancer, HIV, mental health), and engaging in core theoretical debates within the Social Sciences, the health stream aims to be be at the forefront of identifying and addressing opportunities and constraints within Australian and other healthcare systems, and in particular, the role of normative or reductive understandings of health, illness and care in framing individual and community health and wellness experiences.

Working toward a more just society is necessarily about understanding and addressing key issues in health, illness and care.

Research Areas

Within the sociology of cancer we explore health, illness and healing experiences, including those of patients, families and healthcare professionals. Here we focus on the utilisation of rigorous sociological research methods and theory to better understand the social, cultural, historical and political aspects of contemporary cancer care and survivorship.

Within the sociological study of Infectious Diseases and Antimicrobial Resistance we focus on the critical analysis of infection ‘management’ in everyday health and medical work - and in community settings - exploring how social dynamics shape decisions, illness experiences and care provision. We focus on incorporating lay/consumer and community perspectives in understanding and addressing infectious diseases challenges as well as incorporating the experiences of doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other key stakeholders.

How we care and are cared for by others remains a fundamental measure of meaningful fulfilling life. How, and by whom, care is provided has also become increasingly relevant in policy and practice. In this program we explore the social correlates of care and caring.

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