Cancer in the Community: Class and Medical Authority
by Martha Balshem
ISBN 13: 1560982519
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Focusing on deep conflicts between the medical establishment and the working class, Martha Balshem chronicles a health education project in “Tannerstown,” a pseudonym for a blue-collar neighborhood in northeast Philadelphia.
Martha Balshem is an anthropologist living in Portland, Oregon.
Balshem conducted anthropological research as a means of exploring the limitations and possibilities of community-based approaches to cancer prevention. . . . [Her] study serves as a useful first step to a multidisciplinary literature on cancer, broadening analyses of this complex disease in much the same way that social science and grassroots perspectives helped inform the transition from gay-related immune deficiency (GRID) to HIV disease.
—American Journal of Preventative Medicine
Fascinating and thought-provoking. Showing clearly that the relationship between patients' families and physicians is a class-based phenomenon, Balshem explores community residents' feelings that health education is an outsider's attempt at control. . . . Her book is not only a report of a project but also a guide and a warning to those setting up similar programs.
[Cancer in the Community] raises questions not often asked by health-care professionals, yet necessary to achieve any success with current national health-care proposals.
Anthropologist Balshem worked as a health educator in a blue-collar white ethnic neighborhood in northeast Philadelphia, a cancer hot spot she calls ‘Tannerstown,’ and she offers some worthwhile reflections on ‘negotiating professional authority.’ Balshem’s interviews . . . clearly show how medical professionals both shy away from environmental factors and act in an authoritarian way toward their working-class patients. She argues that health educators should listen more to community critiques.