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Hum Nat. 1993 Dec;4(4):383-408. doi: 10.1007/BF02692248.

Defining reducible risk : Social dimensions of assessing birth technologies.

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  • 1Department of Health Education, Temple University, 304 Seltzer Hall, 19122, Philadelphia, PA.


In maternity care, costly high-technology interventions that have never been shown to be clinically effective continue to be used in the United States, while inexpensive and effective low-technology interventions continue to be underused. Three high-technology approaches to risk reduction-electronic fetal monitoring, cesarean section, and home uterine activity monitoring are contrasted with three low-technology approaches-prenatal care, smoking cessation, and nutrition supplementation. These technologies are examined in terms of current controversies over their safety, efficacy, and cost-effectiveness. Examination of these controversies illustrates how the medical technology industry, the regulatory process, and systems of social stratification contribute to social and cultural constructions of what are regarded as reducible birth risks.

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