Conference: The Politics of Health
10/4/2013, 8:00 am - 5:30 pm
Free and Open to the Public
Location: Sarratt Student Center (Google map of this location)
Vanderbilt University’s Center for Medicine, Health & Society (MHS) hosts "The Politics of Health," a two-day that conference explores political exigencies of health in the US and around the world. The conference invites participants and attendees with a range of priorities, experiences, and expertise to a conversation about the paradoxes and the promises of health.
Health is a political object par excellence: everyone agrees on its fundamental importance. Yet there is widespread disagreement about what health consist of, who needs it, and how we can equitably share it. American politicians and communities spent the last two years arguing over whether a national healthcare system was a moral necessity or an egregious governmental overreach. The business of health has made a dizzying array of technologies and treatments available across the globe, but as a result health has also into a commodity available only to some. Political, social and environmental issues - war, gun control, climate change, food security, discrimination - are increasingly understood in terms of their health effects, but their practical and social dimensions remain no less complex. Health is not just a state to strive for or a quantity we can posses, then, but a lens that reveals contention, suffering, and the possibility of better lives. Health, that is to say, is political.
The conference is organized around four themes that speak to the scale, urgency and intimacy of health as a political problem: inequality, activism, policy, and aesthetics. Discussions will build on the observation that health is a crucial resource, but it is almost never equitably distributed. A panel on racial inequality will take on the persistent causes and consequences of health disparities, and a panel on activism will consider the possibilities for health justice in settings of scarce money, time and attention. These inequalities are shaped by forces that can feel far removed from our everyday experience, despite the physical immediacy and personal nature of health. A panel on health policy will probe both the present and future of how health care is legislated and delivered, and a panel on aesthetics will examine how seemingly distant economic and legal decisions about health are materialized in our everyday physical, social, and natural environments. By opening the discussion to practitioners, scholars, activists, students, and community members, we aim to address health issues as they are now understood by a wide variety of stakeholders: not as a condition or an abstract object, but as an ongoing political project.