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Soc Sci Med. 2005 Aug;61(4):745-50. Epub 2005 Feb 17.

The social production of health: critical contributions from evolutionary, biological, and cultural anthropology.

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Department of Health and Nutrition Sciences, Brooklyn, NY 11210, USA.


In 1946, the newly formed World Health Organization boldly sought to conceptualize "health" as wellbeing in the positive sense, "not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." Yet nearly six decades later, researchers are still principally concerned with pathology and its characteristics and consequences. This special issue is the result of an effort to broaden the focus. Anthropologists working from evolutionary, biological and sociocultural perspectives and in diverse geographic regions were asked to examine meanings associated with health and/or to identify social conditions and practices that have contributed to positive physiological and psychological states in particular cultures, times, or across time. Most notable, perhaps, was discovering how difficult it is for Western social scientists to move beyond pathology-based thinking; most authors represented here regard health primarily as the absence of disease. Still, these papers articulate and address questions key to understanding health in and of itself, including: How is health conceptualized? What kinds of social conditions lead to health? And, how do social inequalities affect health? This introduction critically discusses previous work on the subject to contextualize the original research papers offered here.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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