In recent years, concerns about the interactions between environment and human health have increased, with health professionals and policy makers, governments, international bodies, and sectors of the general public recognising the challenges posed by climate change and other environmental pressures. Evan Willis’s plenary at the 2009 Medical Sociology conference in Manchester highlighted the implications for medical sociological work, and set the scene for symposia on environmental issues at the 2012 and 2013 conferences.
Building on these events, a workshop at the Aston conference in 2014 looked ahead, considering how we might further develop sociological understanding of environment, health, and health care; possible responses to events such as the UN International Climate Change Treaty, due to be signed in November 2015; potential joint events with the well-established BSA Climate Change study group; and how to ensure engagement around the broad topic of environment and health at future MedSoc conferences and in regional study groups. This workshop agreed that establishing a Medical Sociology SIG should be the next step, with the following objectives:
- To foster sociological exploration of the conflicts and congruities between human health and the global environment.
- To provide a forum to consider how we may engage with academic research on environment and health, and with non-academic events, including the International Climate Change Treaty signing and the 2015 General Election.
- To plan contributions to future BSA annual and medical sociology conferences, regional BSA meetings and free-standing events, and to collaborate with other relevant BSA study groups (e.g. Climate Change study group, Animal/Human study group).
In the future, the importance of environmental issues for human health and relevant services will undoubtedly grow. This group will provide a vital setting in which medical sociologists can extend their knowledge and skills in order to identify, explore and respond practically to these. Its overall objective is to enable our sociological specialism to respond effectively and in distinctive ways to emerging topics, thereby contributing to academic dialogue, and informing public debate and action.