9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN16 Sociology of Health and Illness

2009-09-05 11:00:00 2009-09-05 12:30:00 Saturday, 5 September 11:00 - 12:30 Public Health, Health Promotion and Risk I Building I, 1E2

Risk and ideologies of prevention: contextual rationalities in the consumption of therapeutical resources

The notion of risk is underpinned by a rationalist approach and understanding of reality that presupposes the control of uncertainty through the development of statistical procedures and mathematical probabilities. Its disseminated use reflects a trajectory of success in its diffusion throughout several domains of employment, and it is today part of the way how we came to see and act upon reality, inasmuch as the world as turned increasingly numerical and yields gradually sophisticated modalities of statistical measure and categorization.
One of the fields in which is visible the relevance of statistical quantification as a privileged policy strategy is that of public health, namely by means of an epidemiological approach that highlights the idea of prevention. Through a population focus which encompass large numbers of people that may not necessarily have symptoms, rather ?risk factors? that may lead to illness, it is becoming progressively evident the reconfiguring of the notions of health and illness, which are changing from being dichotomized as categories to being ever more diluted in a continuum marked by different levels of risk. Therefore, by identifying certain social groups as being ?at risk?, the preventive strategies look for determining ? using measure, modelling and classificatory instruments ? causation patterns that make less relevant the idea of randomness in illness and in death. By doing this the preventive strategies direct the risk diminishing discourse not only towards changes in life styles of the population but also towards prevention logics in face of a new category of pre-problems increasingly sustained by epidemiological criteria and statistical evidence.
Based on a research being undertake in Portugal over therapeutical consumptions, the proposed presentation tries to underline the social inscription of risk, discussing the ways in which the syncretic and conjunctural nature of the lay knowledge is defined by concrete circumstances that relate to contextual rationalities moulding the attribution of meaning towards risk and towards the role played by therapeutical resources as a strategy of its potential prevention.