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Qualitative Explorations in Health Geography: Using Pragmatism and Related Concepts as Guides

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Geographers who study health and health care increasingly turn to qualitative methodologies to explore aspects of problems passed over by descriptive or quantitative approaches. The concurrent focus on place and health has furthered this turn. To deepen the basis for qualitative research into health and place, this paper introduces pragmatism as a philosophical basis for such work. Subsequently, the paper considers the concept of place from the perspective of pragmatism and discusses a framework termed “place integration.” Concepts consistent with pragmatism and place integration—social capital, core participation, and community reconstruction—are then suggested as possible guides for qualitative inquiry into both health and health care problems. The objective is a philosophically grounded qualitative health geography that focuses on situated experience and integrative processes in place, generates new concepts to meliorate health and health care problems, and begins to connect what have been the disease and health care “sides” of health geography.

Keywords: Pragmatism; health geography; place; qualitative methodologies

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Middlebury College

Publication date: May 1, 1999

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