Measuring health and illness: Quantification and changing practices of health, illness, and solidarity
Constance van Egmond (Rathenau Institute)
André Krom (Rathenau Instituut)
Health, caring, technology
Economy 2
Thursday 18 September, 9:30-11:15, 11:30-13:15, 15:00-16:45, 17:00-18:45 (UTC+0)

Short abstract:

Long abstract:

We humans are increasingly able to quantify, measure, monitor bodily functions closer to and in the body, with cheaper, mobile, quicker and invasive devices. Combining DNA and imaging data with data from biological samples, medical records and lifestyle data on patients and consumers, leads to promises of personalized medicine. These developments may allow new actors access into research and therapy and empower individuals in maintaining a good health or living with disease. But access might not be equally divided or shared and may lead to asymmetries of power: some individuals may become more empowered than others. Moreover, new actors enter with incentives other than good healthcare. New parameters of illness and disease may enter, emphasizing the role of environment and behavior in the development of disease. This could blur the existing dichotomy between health and illness, and bring in new definitions. Equally, the individual (lifestyle) may become a coercive factor.

A number of ethical, social and political questions arise; what will be the consequence of measuring health and illness for the definition of health and illness, for the network of actors that is involved in measuring, about the storage, ownership and access to data and related, the presumed control of health or disease, the solidarity in health care, for the responsibility for health and disease, for the organisation of public health services. This session aims to investigate these questions, by discussing practices of measuring the body and discussing the possible scientific and political agenda deriving from the cases.

The papers will be presented in the order shown and grouped 4-4-4-4 between sessions