Hazardous good intentions? Unintended consequences of the project of prevention

Broom, Dorothy
August 2008
Health Sociology Review;Aug2008, Vol. 17 Issue 2, p129
Academic Journal
Preventing disease is by definition a valuable objective, and most debates have revolved around improving the effectiveness of prevention. In this discussion, I explore the latent functions - the unintended consequences - of what I call the 'project of prevention'. Although many latent functions are welcome, some have undesirable effects, and it is therefore important to instigate a rich exchange between innovative theory and rigorous research to minimise such effects. I argue that the hazards are particularly acute in the absence of a reflexive and critical awareness of the political environment and the cultural economy within which prevention occurs. In the paper, I sketch the challenges to mobilising that awareness, show some of the limitations of the conventional theoretical approaches to prevention, and point to directions for developing more fruitful perspectives.


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