Health and Other Unassailable Values sets out to examine health as a core cultural value. Taking ‘health’, ‘evidence’ and ‘ethics’ as her primary themes, Bell explores the edifice that underpins contemporary conceptions of health and the transformations in how we understand it, assess it and enact it. Although health, evidence and ethics have always been important values, she demonstrates that the grounds upon which they are grasped today are radically different from how they were formulated in the past.
Divided into three parts, Part I focuses on the rise of epidemiology, Part II examines the emergence of evidence-based medicine, and Part III explores the broader ethical turn in health and medicine. Through an examination of core concepts including health behaviour, the randomised controlled trial, informed consent and human rights, Bell illustrates the ways in which certain entrenched ideas and assumptions about how human beings think and act recur across a variety of settings. An array of topical case studies, including cigarette packaging legislation, the incorporation of male circumcision as an HIV prevention tool, cancer screening technologies and e-cigarettes, ground the arguments presented.
Written in a clear and engaging style, this volume will be of interest to a wide range of scholars and students, especially those in medical anthropology, medical sociology and public health. Clear chapter delineations make the work easy to engage with at the individual chapter level as well as a whole.
“Health and Other Unassailable Values offers a powerful analysis of how health is conceptualized in contemporary society and culture. Bell offers key insights into how supposedly scientific ‘facts’ and apparently unassailable ‘values’ are socially constructed and intertwined in ways that make their claims to truth seem not only obvious but even unquestionable. This is critical social science thinking at its very best, and promises to make a major contribution to our understanding of health in contemporary life.”
Richard Parker, Columbia University, USA
“Modern medicine seems a complex affair but this original and insightful book shows how it is underpinned by a number of foundational constructs. This broad-ranging and lucid overview explores how current understandings of health, evidence and ethics emerged and so reveals what lies behind our everyday experience of ‘modern’ medicine in the 21st century.”
David Armstrong, King’s College London, UK
Part I: Health
1. Lifestyle and the Rise of Epidemiology 2. Nudging and Other Theories of ‘Health Behaviour’ 3. Tertiary Prevention and the Teachable Moment
Part II: Evidence
4. Medicine Acquires a Base 5. RCTs and the Unencumbered Human 6. Systematic Reviews and the Behavioural Turn
Part III: Ethics
7. Medicine Acquires Ethics 8. Consent and the Informed Patient 9. Health, Choice and Human Rights