Skip to main content

Web Content Display Web Content Display

The RN16 Committee is pleased to announce that the Mid-Term Conference which was to take place in June 2020 in Krakow is re-arranged, for reasons beyond the control of the organizer, to a new date of February 17-21, 2021.

We invite colleagues from Europe and around the globe in the field of the sociology of health and illness to consider submitting their work to the following sessions:

Session 1: Social, political and scientific controversies about vaccines and immunization policies

Organized by Giampietro Gobo (University of Milan) & Barbara Sena (Unitelma Sapienza University of Rome).

Socio-political and scientific controversies on vaccines and immunization policies are not a new phenomenon both in Europe and the rest of the world. On one side, ancestors of the scientific opposition were the English physicians Charles Creighton (1847–1927) and Edgar Crookshank (1858–1928), as well as the German pathologist Johann Ludwig Casper (1796-1864) and the famous Welsh biologist Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913). On the other, the opposition to mandatory and mass immunization rise in the second half of 1800s (e.g. the Anti Vaccination League and the Anti-Compulsory Vaccination League). This social and scientific criticism re-emerged in the late 1970s in the American New Left, second-wave feminism, and the environmentalist movements. This entailed a general disillusionment with the traditional medical practices and growing doubt about the safety of commonly prescribed drugs. We are now assisting in the appearance of a third wave of renewed criticism, configuring it in distinct social movements (often labelled as “pro-vax”, “free-vax” or “hesitant”) constituted by multiple actors (parents, practitioners, scientists, politicians, artists and so on), which express concerns about even more general issues: freedom and civil rights, public health, big pharmas and political agendas. In this framework, are welcome papers which, focusing on vaccination policy controversies, will explore (in balanced and equidistand ways): i) political debates; ii) economic conflicts; iii) law disputes; iv) cultural oppositions; v) religious believes; vi) new social movements; vii) scientific controversies on single aspects of vaccines and immunization theories.

Session 2: The social construction of autism

Organized by Alice Scavarda (University of Turin) & Angela Genova (Università Carlo Bo, Urbino)

The last years have been witnessing a growing interest in autism research, both in sociology of health and in disability studies fields, raising issues about the social origins of autism epidemic, the construction and the use of the diagnosis, the role of parents and health professionals and the autism advocacy movement with the neurodiversity concept proposal. This session aims to provide space for critical thinking, on how autism is produced, represented and, in some way, resisted by individuals, roups and by cultural and health systems. To unpack the notion of autism, we invite theoretical and empirical papers, addressing the following issues and other related topics: i) the identification and the diagnosis of autism, namely the medical discourse on autism, deepening the institutional matrices of knowledge, practices and identity; ii) the cultural discourse on autism, including book and film industry, performing arts, photography; iii) the living experience of autism, considering both the accounts of people with autism and their families, with a specific focus on disablement; iv) the resistance to dominant discourses, particularly in terms of neurodiversity. The session invites both international and national based studies.

Session 3: Making sense of gender and age in the lived experience of chronic illness

Organized by Catarina Delaunay (CICS.NOVA) & Ana Patrícia Hilário (Instituto de Ciências, Universidade de Lisboa)

Gender differences have important implications for how chronically ill people experience the onset, treatment and daily management of their affliction. Indeed, there is evidence that women and men tend to react to and deal with chronic illness differently because of their gender roles. Gender not only conditions the way sufferers experience chronic illness, but also how others perceive and/or deal with it. Nonetheless, other social determinants such as age might influence the lived experience of chronic illness. Thus, when analyzing chronic illness social scientists must take into account gender as well as age differences across the life span (i.e., generational differences). For instance, age constrains individual and social expectations around the diagnosis of chronic illness. Age and gender also matter in relation to health outcomes, policy-making and clinical practice. Indeed, intersectionality is key for understanding the lived experience of chronic illness and might offer valuable insights for its prevention, treatment and management. The purpose of this session is to offer insights into how both gender and age shape how chronic illness is perceived and experienced. By recognizing intersectionality, we might bring to the fore issues related to social inequalities. We welcome either empirical or theoretical papers that explore intersectionality, namely the role of gender and age, in the lived experience of chronic illness.

Session 4: Chronic illnesses and media: resources, opportunities and online representation

Organized by Andrea Volterrani (University of Rome Tor Vergata) & Angelica Spampinato (University of Rome Tor Vergata)

The role that social media have in people with chronic illnesses highlights the cultural differences, homogeneities and socio-economic contexts related to the diseases. In particular, we suggest the following topics to investigate in your papers: i) The role of social media in creating awareness about chronic illnesses; ii) the impact of open and closed communities built ad hoc in social media on the improvement of care and specialized medical or healthcare professional /patient relationships; iii) analysis of the role of the media and social media in the prevention of some of the most common problems among people with chronic illnesses; iv) the online and offline roles of national associations to fight against illnesses and to promote

active participation of people affected. Papers from studies conducted at local, national and international levels that contribute to conceptualization and/or methodological and empirical developments in the aforementioned topics are welcome.

Session 5: Disability in the medical and social perspective

Organized by Dorota Żuchowska-Skiba (AGH Univesity of Science and Technology) & Jakub Niedbalski (University of Lodz) & Mariola Racław (University of Warsaw)

The thematic session organized by the Section PTS (Polish Sociological Association) Sociology of Disability will be devoted to the subject of changes in defining disability that have taken place in recent years. It can be seen that today there is a departure from the perception of disability in medical terms, and the social dimension of disability is increasingly emphasized. This trend is part of the processes that take place in all European countries. This causes the need to start a debate about the changes taking place. The topics of the session will cover six areas emerging at the meeting point of medical and social problems related to disability, which significantly affect the situation of people with disabilities today: i) individual vs social vs biopsychosocial disability model - new perspectives for reflection on disability; ii) standardization policy versus diversity policy - a new model of social policy for people with disabilities; iii) exclusion vs inclusion - a new model of certificate of degree of disability and the problems of advocacy and self-advocacy of persons with disabilities; iv) compensation vs integration - the importance of new technologies for people with disabilities; v) accessibility vs barriers in the medical and social area - accessibility of services for people with disabilities; vi) stigmatization vs acceptance - a change in the perception of people with disabilities in Poland and in the world. We are also open to other issues that are part of the debate on changing the model of disability in contemporary Poland and other European countries.

Session 6: Undesirable consequences of increasing non-expert agency in the neoliberal health care system

Organized by Kadi Lubi, (Health Education Center) & Marko Uibu (University of Tartu)

The neoliberal health care system expects individual responsibility for one’s health. Yet, the signs and appearance of the readiness to take this responsibility either as an individual or as a (local) community, raises emerging contradiction. The latter, in turn, causes tensions and emotional confrontations between and inside groups of local communities/individuals, physicians, healthcare workers, decision- and policy-makers. The tendency is increasing globally in discussions regarding vaccination, alternative and complementary medicine and organization of healthcare. The aim of the panel session is to discuss the new reality of healthcare and medicine in the context of broader socio-cultural trends. Some major questions the panel addresses are following: i) how are new agencies perceived and executed by individuals, communities, and (medical) systems; ii) what are the consequences of the increasing existence of a variety of authorities who influence individual health decisions; iii) how do people combine their individual responsibility over health with expert systems/knowledge and vacillate between patient, consumer, and lay expert/activist positions; iv) how to maintain increased agency and empowered citizens together with the preference of evidence-based solutions under the societal challenges of an ageing population and an increased rate of chronic illnesses? The wide frame of the panel allows discussions about (but are not limited to) the change of the patient’s role in terms of chronic illnesses, complementary and alternative medicine/approaches, civic activism in terms of health care (policy) changes. This session welcomes empirical and/or theoretical papers that engage the issues of healthcare (system/policy) and health challenges under neoliberal circumstances.

Session 7: Health inequalities among the elderly: differences in morbidity, autonomy and quality of life

Organized by Höglinger Marc (Zürich University of Applied Sciences) & Carlander Maria (Winterthur Institute of Health Economics)

Health inequalities between the elderly are the result of cumulative risk factors and the availability of personal resources and manifest themselves in differences in morbidity and mortality. Numerous international studies show that individuals’ educational background, migration experience, income, and wealth are associated with differences in various health outcomes (Mackenbach et al. 2016). Although the so-called "social gradient in health” (Marmot 2005) tends to decrease in older age (partly due to selective mortality), it never completely disappears (Huwiler et al. 2002, Bop and Minder 2003). In addition to differences in morbidity, differences in the individual consequences of diseases must be considered. Social and material resources not only influence the risk of suffering a disease. They also determine access to adequate health care, to formal and informal support, and they are associated with coping strategies to deal with a disease. Accordingly, the same disease might affect central health-related outcomes such as quality of life or autonomy very differently from person to person. This session will therefore focus not only on social determinants of disease and illness, but also on factors that influence how health-related outcomes such as quality of life and autonomy are affected by disease. A particular focus will be put on social integration and social networks as protective factors against disease and important resources in coping with disease (Bachmann 2014, Heaney and Israel 2008 &Berkman et al. 2000). In addition, we welcome contributions on interventions and preventive measures

Session 8: Incorporating the One Health approach into health care organizations: how does it work?

Organized by Giacomo Balduzzi (University of Eastern Piedmont) & Francesca Zaltron (University of Eastern Piedmont) & Anna Rosa Favretto (University of Eastern Piedmont)

The session aims at discussing the effectiveness of integrated health strategies inspired by the ‘One Health’, that is a relatively novel term rooted in long held understandings of the link between diseases shared between environmental factors, animal health and human health (Rüegg et al. 2018; Paternoster et al. 2017). Research and policy processes in many fields, especially health and welfare, are increasingly relying on trans-disciplinary and trans-sectorial cooperation. From local to global levels, the health care organizations need to integrate different knowledge, agencies, professions and policy areas, facilitate collective action, and making connections between ‘organizational silos’ (Jerolmack 2013). Social science may contribute to understand relational and inter-organizational issues in this specific strand of the health debate. Particularly, sociologists may share with other health scientists and practitioners theoretical and methodological instruments to apply in empirical researches and field interventions.

Session 9: Reform policies of European health care systems among state, market and civil society

Organized by Guido Giarelli (University ‘Magna Græcia’)

After about four decades of continuing reforms of the European health care systems, the complexity involved in formulating effective policies to govern multiproblematic systems has been acknowledge. Given the complexity health care systems have, any reform attempt in this policy field have been caught in an attempt to combine opposite objectives: in fact, to control costs and the increase in health expenditures can lower the level of quality of the services delivered; on the other hand, to guarantee equality of access to health care for all may be detrimental for the freedom of choice of the citizens; and, finally, a centralization strategy to rationalize the organization of services can seriously hinder any substantial participation of the population in the decision-making process. These fundamental trade-offs are also blurring the traditional boundaries between the Bismackian health care systems based on social health insurances and Beveridgian ones based on national health services: they currently both combine universalization traits with marketization trend in an attempt to successfully cope with the above challenges. What is the role that the different social and institutional actors – namely, the state, the medical and health professions, the medical-industrial complex, and the citizens with their associations of the civil society - can play in this respect? To what extent we can speak of convergent or divergent policy processes? And, lastly, what is the room for a European Union strategy? Theoretical studies and field researches on case-studies adopting qualitative and quantitative approaches about these topics related to different European health care systems are both welcome in order to deepen the comparative perspective and the sociological insights.

Session 10: Inequalities and informal care: “the voice” of caregivers of chronic illness patients

Organized by Cristina Calvi (Ca' Foscari University of Venice) & Stefania Fucci (University of Parma)

The spread of chronic illnesses play an important role in our society from the point of view both of the material and immaterial resources that they are able to move, and of the impact they produce on the biographies of those directly involved (patients and caregivers). From the microsocial point of view, the illness can be considered as a biographical disruption capable of producing changes on the different trajectories that compose the biography of a person including the moral one. The biographical disruption connected to illness, besides acting on the biography of the patient, also affects the life of those emotionally close to the patient providing care (caregiver). This panel is interested in the development of caregiver career. In general, the effect that a chronic disease produces on informal carers’ lives depends above all on the economic, cultural and relational resources that they have at their disposal. In particular, the resources available to the subjects can make the difference with respect to the way in which the caregiver role is taken and the type of social support provided to the patient. This panel is interested in gathering contributions that reconstruct the impact of chronic diseases of adults and children on the biography of their caregivers with particular attention to gender differences, education and income level. The panel prefers to favour empirical researches that adopts qualitative methods to give voice to the experiences of caregivers and to highlight also the changes on the identity of these subjects.

Session 11: Excellences and Obstacles Implementing Interprofessional Care within Health and Educational Settings: Are healthcare professionals ready to commit?

Organized by Barbara Sena (Unitelma Sapienza University of Rome) & Enrico De Luca (Sapienza University of Rome) & Silvia Cataldi (Sapienza University of Rome)

Interprofessional Care has been recognized as one of the most innovative solution in healthcare organization and specifically to care for complex diseases patients (WHO, 2010). It represents an approach to care that rely on a reorganization of the health services alongside a challenging educational and training pathway for healthcare professionals. Many authors (e.g. Fox and Reeves, 2015; Bureau et al., 2017) have highlighted how a patient centered approach is fundamental to support the conditions leading to implement effective interprofessional care processes. Therefore, a cultural change is needed to ameliorate communication between professionals and to align their vision of care, often influenced by the role played within healthcare settings and the acquired routines by traditional intradisciplinary socialization processes (Sena and Liani, 2019). A broader view of this topic has suggested that it can be implemented with educational and health professional commitments, likewise the importance of specific training, both in the academic courses and in the implementation of interprofessional collaboration practices (WHO, 2013). This session aims to gather a range of papers in order to explore and discuss on different aspects of Interprofessional Care. Particularly, we are interested in: - how different healthcare professionals are involved in interprofessional collaborative practices and how they overcome cultural barriers and professional identities; - how interprofessional teams develop patient-centred approaches to care; - which kind of training and specific education programs are effective to promote interprofessional cultures in academia and health settings; - which factors can contribute to implement interprofessional care practices (e.g. new technologies, policies, clinical governance practices, etc.).

Session 12: The Medicalization of Human Reproduction in a Global Society: Gender, Inequalities and Social Change

Organized by Lia Lombardi (University of Milan)

To discuss human reproduction between health, gender and medicine means "to put it at the center" of reflection and analysis of social changes of the recent decades. The objective of this session is to discuss and compare research and studies on reproductive health (conception, childbirth, abortion, reproductive technologies, reproduction medicalization) as an indicator of development and well-being which highlights the processes of transition and the change of social structures and of gender relationships. I therefore propose an analysis of the relationship between human reproduction and social reproduction by placing reproductive health in a "key dimension" of the analysis of life courses, of the medicalization of human reproduction and of daily life, including the health rights, the welfare policies and the system of social, health and gender inequalities. Studies and analysis of the complex area of health and reproductive rights, can be explored by the theoretical issues of classical sociology, by gender studies and sociology of health and medicine, in a global and gender-sensitive perspective that includes health and reproductive rights of migrant women. According with these premises I invite scholars from Europe and around the Globe to submit theoretical and/or empirical contributions - comparative perspective is also recommended - dealing with the following themes (but not limited to): • Human reproduction and social reproduction • Health and reproductive rights: analyzing global inequalities • Health and reproductive rights: contraception, abortion, pregnancy, childbirth, etc. • The medicalisation of pregnancy, childbirth, conception • Obstetric violence • Induced abortion in Europe and around the world • Reproductive health and rights of adolescents • Social and health inequalities in gender perspective • ART in European countries: comparative analysis • The impact of ART on gender relationships and “newparenthood” (homoparenthood, monoparental families, etc.); • Transnational reproduction and Cross-border reproductive care • Egg donation and “Social egg freezing” • The reproductive health and rights of migrant women • Reproductive rights and life/work balance: a gender perspective

Session 13: Vaccinations in public discourse

Organized by Paulina Polak (Jagiellonian University) & Maria Świątkiewicz-Mośny (Jagiellonian University)

To vaccinate or not to vaccinate, this has become a key question for many parents. More and more are lost between scientific data, official regulations, conflicting reports from various sources, and emotional stories. In this session, we would like to take a closer look at how vaccines and the problems of vaccinating and non-vaccinating are presented in the public discourses: official (including regulatory and supervisory bodies, government), traditional and online media, and social media. Some problems that we would like to include in the discussions are: knowledge and ignorance, misinformation, the problems of individual vs. public risk, communicating about vaccines and vaccinating from official sources and individuals, anti-vaccination groups and their discourses. We invite all papers that talk about vaccination discourse either in the media/social media or in public sphere. We will try to answer questions as for example: i) what discursive strategies are present in vaccination discourses in different contexts?; ii) who are the main actors and how are they presented?; iii) who is excluded from vaccinate discourse?; iv) how inequalities discussed in the discourse?

Session 14: Coercion in psychiatric cure

Organized by Mario Cardano (Università degli Studi di Torino) & Luigi Gariglio (Università degli Studi di Torino)

Coercive measures have been used to tackle mental distresses in psychiatry since the origin of the discipline. It is hardly possible to think of psychiatry without thinking of both coercion and social control. In the past Asylums was a total institution in which doctors would “cure” people with a “broken brain” - showing different kinds of alterities - coercively keeping them in custody; often, doctors and nurses would use extreme body restraint such as mechanic restraint. Even after the discovery of anti-psychotics drugs mechanic restraint and other coercive measures remained the means by which staff controlled inpatients routinely. Nowadays, despite, on the non-restraint movement dating 1850, and spread the process of deinstitutionalization - the shift of psychiatric care towards the territory that occurred in the UK, in Italy and elsewhere - different forms of coercion (environmental, chemical, anaestesiological, manual, mechanical, psychological, familiar, etc.) are apparently still firmly in the picture in many, if not all, EU psychiatric settings. This panel aim to investigate the issues both theoretically and empirically from both academic and non-academic perspective. Paper from the field of humanities, psychology, and the medical sciences are also very welcome.

Session 15: Health and its social meanings

Organized by Iwona Tarnowicz (University of Wroclaw)

The concept of health covers a lot of social meanings connected with social order. The slogan ”your health in your hands” embodies social expectations of individuals in post-modern society. Taking responsibility for one’s own identity and life is the main task of each individual, and self-examination becomes the most important kind of social control. But is each of us able to take control of our own life and health and to make the right choices? Health-related behaviours express social status. In the contemporary society, expert systems, not tradition or religion, are the sources of knowledge, values and norms (and some of these systems are not based on science). Where do people look for knowledge of health and what kind of arguments do they consider to make their choices? How often does the issue of health appear in our day-to-day life and what activities does it concern? Health is one of the most important social values, but what does it mean precisely? If people care for their health, what goals do they want to achieve? What emotions does health trigger? The social concept of health describes what is good and right in the society, what behaviours are desirable, therefore this subject is worth investigating.

Session 16: Explaining variation in health inequalities from a comparative institutional perspective: innovative theoretical approaches and empirical studies

Organized by Barbara Willems (Health and Demographic Research, Department of Sociology Ghent University)

A large strand of research has revealed substantial differences across European countries in the health disadvantage of the lower socioeconomic groups as compared to the higher ones. The demonstration of the persistent (or even increasing) impact of social determinants on health, as well as the variation of this health gradient across Europe, highlights the need for a better understanding of this connection. In order to explain cross-national differences, health sociologists are increasingly focusing on the contextualization of social inequalities in health, thereby emphasizing the need of an institutional theory of health inequalities. They argue that macro-level contexts (i.e. policies, institutions) not only shape the distribution of resources, such as educational attainment, income, and labor conditions, in a population, but also how important these resources are for individuals’ health. In other words, the persistence of social disparities in health can also be attributed to social institutions such as health care systems, labor markets, and schools, if these institutions undermine individuals’ potential for access to, utilization of, and adherence towards health services, practices or guidelines. Previous studies have, for instance, demonstrated the beneficial effect of comprehensive educational systems, unemployment insurance coverage, higher social spending, and organized cancer screening programs on (preventive) health inequalities. There remains, however, large potential for future research. This session invites both theoretical and empirical studies that investigate topics of social inequalities in health. Cross-national comparative studies with a focus on the impact of macro-level factors on health inequalities or national approaches with a focus on social change or evolution of health inequalities over time are preferred.

Session 17: International Mobility of Health professionals: pathways, gender and discrimination processes

Organized by: Francesca Sirna (CNRS, CNE, EHESS-Institut Convergence Migrations) & Simeng Wang (CNRS, CERMES3, EHESS-Institut Convergences Migrations)

Population movements in the health sector, characterized by labor shortages and high feminization (Acker 2005; Castles and Miller, 2003), have affected sending and destination countries on a global scale, based on labour shortages and recruitment schemes (Mejia 1978; Bashford 2006; Kingma, 2006; Solano and Rafferty, 2007). Medical and paramedical staff have experienced increased international geographical mobility since the early 2000s as a result of selective migration policies (Cash & Ulmann 2008). In this context, the EU and EFTA have become destinations for many health professionals (European and non-European) as they accompany the evolution of health systems and the restructuring of forms of employment in the sector. Thus, analysing the reconfigurations of the current mobility of health personnel with foreign diplomas would make it possible to understand in depth these changes, these re-compositions determined by this recent societal context.

The international mobility of health professionals refers to the regulation of the number of medical and paramedical personnel through the use of immigration. The aim would be to describe national and Community migration policies oriented in this direction.

The presence of these foreign personnel also makes it possible to address issues related to the inclusion/exclusion policies implemented by European Union (EU) countries. They cover both professional dimensions (integration, selection, training, recognition of diplomas, equivalence procedures, de-skilling) and family and relational dimensions that provide an understanding of the migration phenomenon as a whole. The migration paths of health workers with foreign diplomas and opportunities for social mobility can also be captured in terms of gender (Cresson 1995; Herzlich et al. 1993; Picot 2005; Cognet 2010), race (Iganski and Mason, 2002) or ethnicity (Ryan, 2007). In this respect, the hospital, as an institutionalized social world, can make it possible, through career analysis, to highlight the articulation effects of the factors of discrimination. Finally, this mobility questions the balances between regions of the world (North/South), but also between countries of the European Union (Western/Eastern countries). The privatization of healthcare sector and the global neoliberal shift underway have profoundly redefined the motivations of health professionals and their migration project. Strong contrasts may thus appear depending on the country of origin or the time of migration to be described. The objective of this session is to bring together specialists in these themes and to discuss the mobility/migration issues of health professionals with foreign diplomas in different national contexts.

Session 18: Open session

This Open Session is intended for those who wish to present a paper/poster on the theme of the conference Health and health care in Europe: between inequalities and new opportunities, but which does not fit into one of the 17 themes.


Session 19: COVID-19 pandemic and its social impact

This session will provide an arena for presenting both theoretical and empirical contributions focusing on the health aspects of SARS-COV2 and its consequences for social life.