Call for Papers
From Health Behaviours to Health Practices
Simon Cohn, editor
Sociology of Health & Illness Monograph
The 20th Sociology of Health and Illness monograph will critically examine the concept of 'health behaviours', which is increasingly widespread in both health research and government policy. Whether already an established focus for interventions as in the UK, or only yet emergent, as in some other international settings, health behaviours are presented as self-evident topics for investigation and action. Derived from psychology, the idea that human behaviour can be divided into discrete, stable and measurable categories, and that such actions are merely the result of individual agency and rational choice, is at odds with most sociological approaches emphasising the relational nature of social life. Further, given the complex and diverse ways in which people make sense of issues relating to their health and body, it is often striking just how few of these perspectives are ever acknowledged or integrated into behavioural accounts.
The monograph will assess the limitations of the concept of 'health behaviours', including the widespread absence of any discussion of power or conceptualisation of sociality. It will explore whether there are different ways to problematise and conduct research into what people do in relation to their health and their experience of illness. Through both theoretical discussions and specific examples contributors should propose approaches that resist an individualising tendency. Instead they should put forward accounts that go some way to capture the complexities associated both with conventional topics, such as diet, smoking and alcohol consumption, as well as topics not normally conceived of as 'health behaviours', such as features of socialising with others, housing conditions and employment circumstances, which have a significant influence on health and illness.
By examining a range of situations and case studies under the general term of 'health practices', emphasis will be put on the emergent nature of the actions and interactions of people in their social and physical environment, thereby countering a model of a priori psychological states typically assumed to be the key causal mechanisms to explain what people do.
As well as exploring conceptual issues, the volume aspires to describe how the concept of health behaviour has enabled classic clinical research designs and methods to be expanded into new areas of investigation. By proposing alternatives to the construction of behaviours as discrete and measurable variables, novel methodologies and forms of evidence should also be accepted as means of assessing the complexity of 'health practices' in context.