9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN16 Sociology of Health and Illness

2009-09-04 09:00:00 2009-09-04 10:30:00 Friday, 4 September 09:00 - 10:30 Formal and Informal Health Care Organisation and Health Care Delivery in Europe I Building I, 1E2

Alternative and Complementary Medicine in Portugal: patterns and logics of consumption

This communication intends to approach the patterns and logics of consumption of complementary and alternative medicines (CAM). These are understood as a diversified set of therapies and therapeutic practices which share the fact of presenting an alternative or a compliment to ?conventional medicine? or ?biomedicine?. They claim to have a systematised body of knowledge about health and illness guiding the therapeutic practices, distinct from traditional or folk medicine and from other systems that can constitute therapeutic resources, such as religion or esotericism.
In Portugal the use of CAM has a lower expression when compared to other European countries, according to data from European Social Survey 2004. However, it is a phenomenon with growing social visibility. The recognition of its expansion has not been, nevertheless, followed up by the production of sociological knowledge concerning the underlying logics of their use. Since it is a non-regulated field, there are no available systematized data about the demand and supply of these therapeutic resources.
Based on the results of a project of sociological research which is being carried out in Portugal, within CIES-ISCTE, about therapeutic consumption, we intend to contribute to fulfil this gap in four levels. First, quantifying the extent of the use of theses medicines. Second, producing a sociography of the users-consumers, based upon sociodemographic, socioeducational and socioprofessional indicators. Third, analysing the patterns of consumption of CAM, on the grounds of indicators such as time and frequency of use, the identification of the therapies used, health problems and therapeutic aims guiding to the use. Last, exploring the logics of consumption, strongly connected to a set of indicators suggesting styles of health controls and investments in health. We intend to question the specificities that the users-consumers present, not only in terms of perceptions and practices related to health, but also in terms of conceptions about health and illness (which can be more activist-oriented or more fatalist-oriented), when compared to non-users.