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Updated 11:00 AM October 9, 2006




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Conference to challenge the health care establishment

What is "health?" Who is "healthy?" Who defines these terms, and why?

These are among the questions that scholars, research scientists, activists and medical experts will explore during an international conference at the University titled "Against Health: Resisting the Invisible Morality."

Organized by the Institute for Research on Women and Gender (IRWG), the Oct. 12-13 conference in Rackham Auditorium will critique the ways current definitions of health are, in some instances, at odds with human well being.

"'Health' is a term often reflexively assumed to be universal, normal and good," says Dr. Jonathan Metzl, conference chairman and a professor of psychiatry and women's studies. "But forces in our society also use the language of 'health' to make moral judgments, convey prejudice, sell products or even to exclude whole groups of persons from health care. Our conference will put this dichotomy under a microscope, in order to explore how health is an ideological state as well as a desired state."

The conference features keynote addresses by Cornell University literary scholar Richard Klein, former Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders and surgeon and well-known breast cancer prevention advocate Dr. Susan Love.

Workshops led by international leaders in such fields as law, medicine, sociology, gender studies, HIV/AIDS research and media studies will address pharmaceutical advertising, health and the African American community, HIV/AIDS, drug use, the so-called obesity epidemic, pharmaceuticals, genetics and childbirth.

"We have an excellent, collaborative panel of speakers who will present alternative, provocative perspectives about health," says Carol Boyd, IRWG director. "The goal is to begin a conversation that breaks down traditional right-left political divides about health and health care in order to find new ways of addressing issues that face everyone."

Other conference speakers include Dorothy Roberts, Northwestern Law School; Kathleen LeBesco, Marymount Manhattan College; Susan Kippax, National Center in HIV Social Research at the University of New South Wales, Australia; Carl Elliott, University of Minnesota; Rebecca Herzig, Bates College; Roddey Reid, University of California, San Diego; Sarah Jain, Stanford University; Brad Lewis, New York University; Kane Race, National Centre in HIV Social Research, University of New South Wales; Petra Kuppers, U-M; Lisa Kane Low, U-M; and Nicholas King, Case Western Reserve University.

Attendance at the conference is free, but advance registration is encouraged by going to

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