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The strange geography of health inequalities

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Abstract:

Place is undoubtedly relevant to health, and geography is a central character in the story of how rich societies handle inequalities in death and disease. But the text is incomplete, its scope limited by a too-delicate encounter between research and policy, and by a strange subdisciplinary divide. Accounts of the geography in health inequalities are largely, albeit subtly, locked into ‘context’. They document the complex extent to which different (material, social and cultural) environments undermine or enhance resilience. They tell the tale of risky places. Our complementary narrative is written around the findings of qualitative ‘compositional’ research. It is about the way health itself is drawn into the structuring of society and space. This geography is a map of health discrimination, illustrated in the processes of selective placement, entrapment and displacement. By drawing attention to the ‘healthism’ of politics and policy in ‘care-less’ competition economies, this enlarged perspective might enhance the role of geography (and geographers) in both understanding and managing health inequalities.

Keywords: Britain; context and composition; health histories; health inequalities; policy relevance; qualitative research

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1475-5661.2005.00159.x

Affiliations: Department of Geography, University of Durham, Durham DH1 3LE, Email: susanj.smith@durham.ac.uk

Publication date: June 1, 2005

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