Acumen, Ambivalence and Ambiguity: Stories of women with asthma

Rose, Gabrielle Maree (2005). Acumen, Ambivalence and Ambiguity: Stories of women with asthma PhD Thesis, Population Health, University of Queensland.

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Author Rose, Gabrielle Maree
Thesis Title Acumen, Ambivalence and Ambiguity: Stories of women with asthma
School, Centre or Institute Population Health
Institution University of Queensland
Publication date 2005
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Dr Mark Brough
Abstract/Summary Australia has one of the highest prevalence rates of asthma in the world and is one of the leading countries in the public health approach to the problem. Yet despite advances biomedical and public health discourses still provide various definitions of asthma and, at times, contradictory models of aetiology, treatment and prevention. These contrasting views are disseminated to the public by the media and in clinical encounters: they inform medical practice, pharmaceutical policy, and public perceptions and responses to the illness. In this thesis I explore the convergences and discrepancies in the representation of asthma and contrast these with the lived experiences of women with asthma. The thesis draws on research undertaken in Queensland, Australia, with women with asthma, and with their physicians and other people working in the field of asthma policy, practice and research. It is a medical anthropological approach to the problem of asthma and uses qualitative and quantitative methods in the collection of data. It then triangulates the qualitative and quantitative findings. The quantitative data are presented first and these are juxtaposed with the qualitative findings. The major concepts to emerge from the qualitative data include the acumen women have in terms of knowledge of their asthma; ambivalence in managing their asthma; and ambiguity in terms of the quality of their life. The findings of the research demonstrate that women with asthma, and the institutions in place to deal with it, suffocate, metaphorically keeping bodies just below the surface, suppressing their life in lieu of their illness. The central argument in this thesis is that despite positive advances in the area of asthma research, policy and practice, the continuing reliance on medical and public health models for the creation of knowledge in the area of chronic illness fails to adequately respond to the needs of women with asthma. The fundamental outcome of the research shows that the social and cultural capital a woman with asthma has in relation to knowledge, attitudes and practices, translates into disposition towards the management of her chronic condition. This is sometimes in direct contrast with existing knowledges. I argue that instead of research and practice that focuses on the deficits in knowledge of people with asthma, an asset-based approach to the problem of asthma – one that focuses on existing knowledge, attitudes and practices of these women may assist in managing the chronic illness condition in a more effective fashion.
Keyword asthma
public health
qualitative research
chronic illness
quality of life

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Created: Fri, 21 Nov 2008, 16:45:22 EST