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Gaceta Sanitaria

Print version ISSN 0213-9111


RUSSELL, Cormac. Does more medicine make us sicker?. Ivan Illich revisited. Gac Sanit [online]. 2019, vol.33, n.6, pp.579-583.  Epub Jan 27, 2020. ISSN 0213-9111.

A proper understanding of health is a social and political challenge, the modern social medicine approach to public health and health approaches more generally tend to minimise this, making the isolated individual the primary unit of health. Ivan Illich, social critic and philosopher, was at the forefront of arguing for a collective health approach and challenging medical hegemony. His theories of institutional counter-productivity, proportionality and his critique of the medical model which he argued was entrenched within an economics of scarcity are as relevant today as they were at their height of popularity, in the 1970s. Applying his analysis to current trends in health approaches I conclude, as did he, that beyond a certain institutional scale or intensity more medicine is making us sicker. Therefore public health requires a dramatic shift away from a focus on individual deficits, lifestyle diseases, behaviour change and health promotion approaches towards genuine community building and significant political investment in the health creation of local communities. Moreover, there is need for more resolute regulation of the marketplace to prevent the health-harming behaviours of industrial and other institutional interests, including public sector and third sector organisations engaged in institutional overreach.

Keywords : Illich; Institutional counter-productivity; Iatrogenesis; Health; Proportionality; Scarcity; Abundance.

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