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Health (London). 2012 Mar;16(2):186-207. doi: 10.1177/1363459311403947. Epub 2011 May 3.

Recognizing medicalization and demedicalization: discourses, practices, and identities.

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University of California, Davis, USA.


Scholars of the medicalization of social problems have paid inadequate attention to medicalization's multiple dimensions - discourses, practices and identities - and to the multiple levels of analysis at which it occurs - macro, meso and micro. As a result, scholars of a given social problem typically examine only a few aspects of its medicalization, fail to recognize changes in medicalization, and miss occasions where medicalization and demedicalization occur simultaneously. Moreover, by conceptualizing medicalization as a category or state rather than a continuous value, and failing to specify the threshold at which a phenomenon becomes 'medicalized' or 'demedicalized', scholars have discouraged attention to demedicalization. The article provides a new typology of medicalization and illustrates its utility through an analysis of two episodes in American abortion history. Previous analysts of these episodes miss many aspects of medicalization and disagree about whether these episodes involve medicalization or demedicalization. The typology helps resolve these differences.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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