Social Science & Medicine – Volume 156, Pages 1-212 (May 2016)

Social Science & Medicine
Volume 156, Pages 1-212 (May 2016)

Review articles
Where the lay and the technical meet: Using an anthropology of interfaces to explain persistent reproductive health disparities in West Africa
Review Article
Pages 175-183
Yannick Jaffré, Siri Suh
Despite impressive global investment in reproductive health programs in West Africa, maternal mortality remains unacceptably high and obstetric care is often inadequate. Fertility is among the highest in the world, while contraceptive prevalence remains among the lowest. This paper explores the social and technical dimensions of this situation. We argue that effective reproductive health programs require analyzing the interfaces between technical programs and the social logics and behaviors of health professionals and client populations. Significant gaps between health programs’ goals and the behaviors of patients and health care professionals have been observed. While public health projects aim to manage reproduction, sexuality, fertility, and professional practices are regulated socially. Such projects may target technical practices, but access to care is greatly influenced by social norms and ethics. This paper shows how an empirical anthropology that investigates the social and technical interfaces of reproduction can contribute to improved global health.


Exploring the views of people with mental health problems’ on the concept of coercion: Towards a broader socio-ethical perspective
Original Research Article
Pages 204-211
Reidun Norvoll, Reidar Pedersen
In mental health care, coercion is a controversial issue that has led to much debate and research on its nature and use. Yet, few previous studies have explicitly explored the views on the concept of coercion among people with first-hand experiences of being coerced. This study includes semi-structured focus-groups and individual interviews with 24 participants who had various mental health problems and experiences with coercion. Data were collected in 2012–2013 in three regions of Norway and analysed by a thematic content analysis. Findings show that participants had wide-ranging accounts of coercion, including formal and informal coercion across health- and welfare services. They emphasised that using coercion reflects the mental health system’s tendency to rely on coercion and the lack of voluntary services and treatment methods that are more helpful. Other core characteristics of coercion were deprivation of freedom, power relations, in terms of powerlessness and ‘counter-power,’ and coercion as existential and social life events. Participants’ views are consistent with prevailing theories of coercion and research on perceived coercion. However, this study demonstrates a need for broader existential and socio-ethical perspectives on coercion that are intertwined with treatment and care systems in research and practice. Implications for mental health policy and services are discussed.