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|Title: ||Medicalization of Eating and Feeding|
|Authors: ||Mayes, C|
|Issue Date: ||10-Apr-2014|
|Citation: ||Mayes C. ‘Medicalization of Eating and Feeding’ In Encyclopedia of Food and Agricultural Ethics: Eds Paul Thompson and David Kaplan. Verlag: SpringerReference, (2014). Available online: http://www.springerreference.com/docs/html/chapterdbid/307555.html, 10 Apr 2014|
|Abstract: ||A variety of developments over the past century have produced the conditions in which eating and
feeding are transformed from practices embedded in social or cultural relations into explicit medical
practices. The rise of medical science, expansion of the pharmaceutical and food industries, escalating
concern over diet‐related diseases and conditions, and growing anxiety over infant and childhood
development have contributed to a process of medicalization.
Medicalization is a sociological concept that analyses the expansion of medical terminology,
interventions, or practitioners into areas of the life that were previously considered outside the medical
sphere. For instance, under‐eating has previously been defined using theological language, as an act of
fasting demonstrating a saintly character. Such practices are now understood through medical terms of
anorexia nervosa, malnutrition, or general diagnoses such as “eating disorders not otherwise specified.”
Individuals engaged in under‐ or over‐eating practices are increasingly defined by medical concepts
(anorexia nervosa and obesity) and treated in medical spaces (hospitals, clinics, or rehabilitation centres)
through medical interventions (pharmaceuticals, surgery, psychotherapy, or dietary regimens). Likewise,
infant feeding (breast or formula) is understood as a practice that requires monitoring and instruction
from medical practitioners. Further, eating in general is progressively invested with medical significance.
Foods and diets are touted as possessing a therapeutic or health enhancing capacity that indicates an
individual’s or population’s present and future health.
Due to the high regard for, and influence of, medical science in the West, medicalization studies primarily
focus on Western contexts. Medicalization does have an impact on non‐Western societies and the
developing world, however its influence emanates from Western biomedicine, industries, and policies.
There is important work to be done in examining the process of medicalization in non‐Western contexts,
however this article is limited to the Western context ( Hunt, 1999).
To analyse the medicalization of eating and feeding it is important to first sketch the theoretical and
historical background of medicalization as a sociological concept. The relationship between eating and
medicine is extensive. In order to focus the discussion, three examples are used – under‐eating, over‐
eating and infant feeding. This background focuses the analysis of the forces driving the medicalization of
eating and feeding. Finally, in elaborating the influences and consequences of the medicalization of eating
and feeding, some of the central ethical implications are identified and discussed|
|Description: ||reference article|
|Type of Work: ||Other|
|Type of Publication: ||Post-print|
|Appears in Collections:||Research Papers and Publications. Sydney Health Ethics|
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