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Structural Vulnerability and Narrative: Sensitising Concepts for Understanding the Health Impacts of Climate Change

Ecological Health: Society, Ecology and Health

ISBN: 978-1-78190-323-0

ISSN: 1057-6290

Publication date: 1 October 2013

Abstract

Purpose

This chapter proposes a way to deepen our understanding of the health impacts of climate change. It explores how and why individuals and communities may experience the climate change-human health interface in different ways.

Design/methodology/approach

We suggest that the concepts of structural vulnerability and narrative inquiry can provide a thick (ethnographic) description of how and why individuals and communities experience and give meaning to the health impacts of climate change. We begin by defining the two concepts before bringing them together to explore the relationship between climate change and health.

Findings

The combination of these two concepts offers the potential to advance our knowledge in two key ways. Firstly, they facilitate a critical and interpretive approach to both the notion of agency and the public health paradigm of the ‘rational-actor’. Secondly, they reveal how vulnerability to climate change is embodied at the level of the mundane and everyday.

Social implications

These concepts, when applied to the climate change–human health interface, can help demonstrate how vulnerability is often a social construction, and, with sufficient political will, may be ameliorated. We see the combination of the concepts discussed here as an opportunity for research to address inequality and justice.

Originality/value

This paper takes two innovative and established concepts in medical anthropology (structural vulnerability) and social science (narrative inquiry) and invites their application to our understanding of climate change and human health. Research analysed via these concepts will provide a clearer understanding of the impacts of climate change and experiences of vulnerability.

Citation

Moran, R., Hollenbeck, J. and Phoenix, C. (2013), "Structural Vulnerability and Narrative: Sensitising Concepts for Understanding the Health Impacts of Climate Change", Ecological Health: Society, Ecology and Health (Advances in Medical Sociology, Vol. 15), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 109-124. https://doi.org/10.1108/S1057-6290(2013)0000015009

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013 Emerald Group Publishing Limited