An Organisational Perspective: Applying Sociology to the Health Sector in Melbourne, Australia

Pain CentreChristine Walker answers some questions about her work as Chief Executive Officer for Chronic Illness Alliance in Melbourne, Australia, which connects not-for-profit groups with government and academics in order to advocate for better healthcare for people with chronic illnesses.

Dr Christine Walker

christine@chronicillness.org.au

Tell us about your organisation. 

Chronic Illness Alliance (CIA) is a peak body representing 53 not-for-profit organisations working with people with chronic illnesses. Our aim is to build a better focus in health policy and health services for all people with chronic illnesses.

Why does your organisation need a sociologist? 

I don’t know that it needs a sociologist specifically but my presence adds value in that I have been able to explore the ways medicine dominates and defines people’s needs, rather than responding to their needs in the social setting. I have also been able to articulate the way medicine and health policy determine who is ill, how they experience their illness and whether such experience is legitimated in the eyes of medicine and health policy. This is something other disciplines are not able to do, though many people dabbling in social research attempt to do so. I have also been able to undertake social research and highlight the social aspects of illness as part of various research projects.

What other organisations do you collaborate with and how does sociology help your organisational networking?
CIA collaborates with other not-for-profit organisations such as Consumers Health Forum, Health Issues Centre and Australian Health Care Reform Alliance. We also collaborate in research with the University of New South Wales, University of Melbourne, Deakin University and Flinders University and with community health centres and Primary Care Partnerships. (Editor’s note: Primary Care Partnerships refers to the Victorian State Government’s initiative to provide integrated health services. This program links hospitals, local government, general practitioners and community health programs with other service providers, such as police, schools and community groups.)

What are some of the highlights of your work as a sociologist within your organisation in terms of helping to make society a better place for the groups you service?
I believe we were instrumental in changing the term ‘chronics’ to refer to sick people to ‘people with chronic illnesses’. We have published our own research on costs of living with a chronic illness; published articles and book chapters on the stigmatising effects of health policies and made submissions to government inquiries on the needs of people with chronic illnesses.

How can people get involved in your organisation’s work?
We don’t seek volunteers as the work requires a strong policy and social research commitment. We receive input from our members through working parties and steering groups and via email groups. We also employ people with chronic illnesses where possible and run focus groups where we reimburse people for their contributions.

To view the Chronic Illness Alliance webpage, please visit: http://www.chronicillness.org.au/

Using applied sociology...I have been able to articulate the way medicine and health policy determine who is ill, how they experience their illness and whether such experience is legitimated in the eyes of medicine and health policy


SAW logoArticle copyright: © Christine Walker 2010. Published by Sociology At Work. All rights reserved.

Article citation: Walker, C. (2010) ‘An Organisational Perspective: Applying Sociology to the Health Sector,’ Working Notes, Issue 1, June, online resource:
http://sociologyatwork.org/applying-sociology-to-the-health-sector-in-melbourne

Top photo credit: Johnnyalive (2006) ‘Make the Pain Go Away’, Flickr. Last accessed online 24 June 2010: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jkgroove/191905347/

Information about Primary Care Partnerships (PCP) was sourced from their website. PCP (2010) ‘About PCPs’, online resource. Last accessed online 24 June 2010: http://www.health.vic.gov.au/pcps/about/index.htm