Top Menu


2019 TASA Health Day: Data, Technology and Sociology in the Age of Digital Health Follow the Health TG on Twitter Click here for the Health TG Sub-site

Aims and objectives:

The aims of the Sociology of Health Thematic Group are to:

  • support social and sociological research on health and medical issues
  • encourage and facilitate contact among academics and others researching in the field
  • encourage submission of papers to TASA conferences and HSR
  • provide an avenue for researchers to have draft papers informally reviewed by members
  • encourage postgraduate interest in the field of the sociology of health

Year established:

The Health Section of TASA was first established in 1967. It was known as the Medical Sociology Section, at a time when the national association was known as SAANZ (the Sociological Association of Australia and New Zealand). It was the first specialty section formed.


Sophie Lewis (UNSW) – 12/2017-12/2019

Anthony Smith (UNSW), Marika Franklin, La Trobe ( both 12/2018) and Paulina Billett (January 19)

Events - 2016


Health Sociology in the 21st century: Innovative Approaches to Researching Health and Society

Friday 2 December

Australian Catholic University, Melbourne

Registration details and call for papers

A one-day Health Day event will be held on Friday 2nd December, 2016 following the annual TASA Conference. The event theme, Health Sociology in the 21st century: Innovative Approaches to Researching Health and Society, invites discussion on new directions in research for 21st century health social scientists.

The event will focus on the practicalities, the possibilities, and the constraints of ‘doing’ health sociology in the 21st century. Questions to be considered are what are the possibilities for harnessing new technologies in research? How can social media be used in research design?  What are the practical applications of online tools? The theme also invites consideration of novel approaches to health sociology research including trends in mixed methods, use of online tools, digital ethnography, and big data analysis.

The event is directed towards health sociologists working in academia, Research Higher Degree students and health social scientists working outside of the academy.

Invited speakers & workshop

The keynote speaker for the event is Professor Deborah Lupton, Centenary Research Professor, News and Media Research Centre at the University of Canberra. Professor Lupton will speak on ‘Digital sociology meets health sociology: new theories and methods’. Deborah is a recognised academic of international renown, writes a popular blog This Sociological Life, and has published widely on digital sociology, risk, public health, obesity politics, food, and the body.

The event also features an interactive workshop on innovative research methods in health sociology. The workshop will be led by A/Professor Fran Collyer, a prolific health sociologist and author of Mapping the Sociology of Health and Medicine: America, Britain and Australia Compared (2012).

Networking lunch

The event registration fee covers a networking lunch in which students, casual academics, early career researchers and researchers outside of the academy, will meet over lunch with established health sociology researchers. The lunch aims to connect aspiring early career researchers, students and those working outside of the academy with established researchers, to foster research collaboration, conversations and capacity.

Call for papers

A small number of additional papers will be selected. Abstracts are invited that address the theme of the symposium, including but not limited to:

  • Use of new technologies in researching health society
  • Possibilities for use of social media in health sociology research
  • Profile of current projects using innovative approaches to researching health and society
  • Potential for use of big data in health sociological research
  • Critique/constraints of use of new technologies and innovative approaches

We seek a range of papers from early and mid-career researchers, applied health social scientists working outside the academy and established researchers. Papers can be based on empirical, applied or theoretical work.

Abstracts of up to 200 words should be submitted to Dr Michelle Black ( by Monday September 15th 2016.


Registration costs are $55 for TASA members and $65 for non-TASA members. Registration covers networking lunch, morning and afternoon tea. Registration closes on October 1st 2016 and registration and payment can be made using this link:

Subsidised Registrations and Travel Bursaries for PhD students, sessional/casual academics and unwaged health sociologists

A limited number of TASA subsidised registrations are available for PhD students and sessional/casual academic staff.  In addition to assist in travel to Melbourne, three TASA supported travel bursaries of $200 each will be available to sessional/casual academics and unwaged health sociologists residing outside of Melbourne. Application for travel bursaries or subsidised registration must be made using the online registration portal. Successful applicants will be notified by email.

Organisers:  The event is organised by members of the TASA Health Thematic Group.


Events - 2015

The Politics of Knowledge in Health Care:

Science, Evidence and Experience

26 June

Newcastle Museum

2015 health day

Keynote speakers and Health TG convenors (L-R): Karen Willis, Caragh Brosnan, Evan Willis, Emma Kirby, Kevin Dew, Michelle Black and Peta Cook

Held at Newcastle Museum on 26 June, this symposium set out to explore how questions around what counts as evidence are negotiated, resolved and reinforced within different health care practices and contexts, and what the implications are for professions, patients and publics.


The event was supported by the Faculty of Education and Arts at the University of Newcastle along with TASA, and saw 40 delegates attend from 14 different universities and the public sector.


The funding awarded by TASA was used to create postgraduate travel bursaries, enabling five postgraduate members to come from interstate to attend the symposium.




The day kicked off with three keynote talks:


  • Professor Kevin Dew (Victoria University of Wellington, NZ) presented findings from several empirical studies to explore the categorisation work that is undertaken in different settings where health care decisions are made: in the home, in GP consultations, and in multi-disciplinary team meetings in hospitals.


  • Dr Peta Cook (University of Tasmania) discussed the way ‘the public’ is constructed through public consultations on new technologies.


  • Professor Karen Willis (Australian Catholic University) presented new findings from a project examining the rationales people use in Australia when deciding whether to take out private health insurance and how these map onto the public rhetoric around health care choice.


After lunch, a series of shorter papers continued to develop the theme of contested knowledge, provoking lively discussion.


  • Christy Newman (UNSW) discussed the experiences and perspectives of people living with HIV who choose not to take prescribed treatments.


  • Emily Hansen (UTas) considered how GPs justify decisions not to follow evidence-based guidelines in an effort to treat patients more holistically.


  • Jennifer Smith-Merry (Sydney) explored the new occupational role of Support Facilitators in mental health work in relation to work on the sociology of knowledge and the professions


  • Scott Fitzpatrick (UON) critically examined the social and political implications of using personal stories in new suicide prevention initiatives, in the context of the history of suicidology.


  • David Levy (Sydney) focussed on complementary medicine and the meaning it has for patients


  • Monique Lewis (Griffith) discussed the way in which complementary medicine is represented in the media


  • Caragh Brosnan (UON) considered the interaction of complementary medicine and knowledge production within universities


Professor Evan Willis (La Trobe) took the floor at the end of the day as invited discussant.  Professor Willis emphasised the importance of sociologists remaining impartial when studying debates over health care, and made a plea for greater theoretical engagement in health sociology. What emerged over the course of the day was a sense of how the politics of knowledge are implicated not just in health care but in social science too.

A special issue of Health Sociology Review (Vol 25:2) includes some of the papers from this event:


Events - 2014

The Value of Health:

The Refiguring of Health and Health Care Under Neoliberalism

28 November

University of South Australia

2014 health day

Panellists (L-R): Alex Broom, John Germov, Stephanie Short, Kevin White

Picking up one of the central threads from the main TASA conference held earlier in the week – the impact of neoliberalism on society – this symposium examined whether, why and how health and health care are being redefined amid neoliberal reforms in Australia and overseas. This was an especially timely discussion, as 2014 marked the thirtieth anniversary of Australia’s universal health insurance scheme, Medicare, and saw heated debate over the proposed introduction of patient co-payments in Australian primary care.

Speakers and audience members discussed neoliberalism’s impact in a range of health care contexts, and considered the question of what sociologists can or should do to promote different ways of valuing health now and in the future.

Funding from TASA was used to support keynote speaker travel and to offer two postgraduate bursaries. UniSA kindly provided the venue.


The day began with a keynote presentation by Professor Fran Baum, Director of the Southgate Institute of Health, Society and Equity at Flinders University.  Professor Baum focused on the nexus between health and politics by considering the big picture of the social determinants of health.  The discussion then moved on to findings from interviews with former Australian health ministers, and new research into cuts to community health services in South Australia.  Professor Baum also touched on her activist work with the People’s Health Movement

This address was followed by four papers:

  • Ally Gibson (UQ) argued for a more nuanced analysis of illness culture by discussing social constructions of breast cancer within neoliberal western society, the implications of the ‘pink ribbon’ culture, and issues centred on individual responsibility and empowerment, consumerism and self-determination.
  • Merrilyn Crichton (CSU) explored the impact of neoliberalism on mental health care provision by examining the push to promote eHealth options for mental health services and treatment in rural and regional Australia. The commodification of health and social support was discussed in relation to the findings of a qualitative study.
  • Edgar Burns (La Trobe) also discussed issues concerning mental health care provision. Here, the focus was on regional / rural issues and the complex concept of co-location in terms of joint service provision. Issues explored included substance abuse, unemployment and homelessness.
  • Kathryn Dwan (ANU) compared the histories of general practice in Australia and the Netherlands, given the strong primary health care systems in both countries have developed differently according to relationships between the state, the medical profession and civil society.

The final keynote speaker was Kevin White, Reader in Sociology at ANU, who sparked controversy with his argument that neoliberalism is not as useful a concept as capitalism, and that the types of health inequalities currently experienced are reflections of continuing class differences rather than being a new phenomenon.

The day was brought to a close by a panel comprising Kevin White, A/Prof Alex Broom (UQ), Prof Stephanie Short (Sydney) and Prof John Germov (Newcastle) who discussed the positive and negative aspects of neoliberalism – conceptually, and in terms of real world implications for health and health care.

Events - 2013

Commemorating 50 years of TASA and Health Sociology in Australia: The 2013 TASA Health Sociology Thematic Group Seminar (ACU, NSW, July 8)

Events - 2010

Health Day 2010. Professor Rick Iedema at the lectern, (front, from left: Professor David Pilgrim, Dr Rowena Forsyth, Professor Stephanie Short and Dr Katherine Carroll

At the TASA Annual Conference in December 2010, we held our annual Health Day at Macquarie University. This was a successful event, with two panel presentations. The first Panel was ‘Doing Sociology With Medicine: Challenges and Opportunities for Research and Teaching’ with speakers:

  • Professor David Pilgrim, Professor of Mental Health Policy in the School of Social Work at of the University of Central Lancashire
  • Professor Stephanie Short, Professor of Health Sciences and Associate Dean at the University of Sydney
  • Dr Rowena Forsyth, a Research Fellow in the Northern Clinical School at the University of Sydney
  • Dr Katherine Carroll, a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Sydney
  • Professor Rick Iedema, Professor of Communication in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Technology Sydney

The second panel was titled ‘Reflections on the Field: The Early Years and Progress in the Sociology of Health, Illness and Medicine’. Speakers for this event were:

  • Professor Dorothy Broom, of the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health at the Australian National University
  • Professor Anne Rogers, Professor of the Sociology of Health Care at the University of Manchester
  • Professor Jeanne Daly, a Fellow of the Public Health Association of Australia and Editor of the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health

Thank you to all our speakers and participants, and we look forward to this year’s Health Day.

Group members

  • Joan Abbott-Chapman
  • Fran Collyer
  • Peta Cook
  • Merrilyn Crichton
  • Deborah Dempsey
  • Angela Durey
  • John Germov
  • Marilys Guillemin
  • Jo Lindsay
  • Deborah Lupton
  • Kate O'Loughlin
  • Juliet Richters
  • Evan Willis
  • Karen Willis
  • Grazyna Zajdow
  • Leonie Short
  • Gil-Soo Han
  • Meg Carter
  • Anne-Maree Sawyer
  • Sarah MacLean
  • Gary Dowsett
  • Jason Prior
  • Emma Kirby
  • Emily, C. Hansen
  • Marie Shepherd
  • Alan Petersen
  • Kerrie Claydon
  • Philippa Collin
  • Riki Lane
  • Rachel Canaway
  • Simone Fullagar
  • Peter Robinson
  • Gerard Goggin
  • Christy Newman
  • Eileen Willis
  • Eve Barboza
  • Eileen Clark
  • Catherine Waldby
  • Briony Horsfall
  • Jonathan Gabe
  • Edgar Burns
  • Rebecca Olson
  • Jennifer Power
  • Kirsten Harley
  • Alphia Possamai-Inesedy
  • Meredith Nash
  • Geraldine Donoghue
  • Michael Fine
  • Michelle Black
  • Josephine Clarke
  • Joanne Bryant
  • Alex Broom
  • Cassie Curryer
  • Gavin Smith
  • Christina Malatzky
  • Catherine Robinson
  • Caragh Brosnan
  • Melissa-Jane Belle
  • Helen Keane
  • Paulina Billett
  • Kim McLeod
  • Toni Schofield
  • Tulsi Achia
  • Tony McHugh
  • Jennifer Ayton
  • Rob Stones
  • Sophie Lewis
  • Christopher Mayes
  • Allegra Schermuly
  • Annetta Mallon
  • Scott Fitzpatrick
  • Carmel Desmarchelier
  • Matthew Wade
  • Emma Barnard
  • Stephen O'Brien
  • Samantha Clune
  • Charlotte Young
  • Aqua Hastings
  • Josie Reade
  • Katherine Carroll
  • Naomi Smith
  • Kiran Pienaar
  • Ann Dugdale
  • Laura Dunstan
  • Pei-Chun Ko
  • Maho Omori
  • Lise Mogensen
  • Louise Keogh
  • Ben Lyall
  • Seamus Barker
  • Marika Franklin
  • Chris Platania-Phung
  • Sally OLoughlin
  • Sophie Hickey
  • Danielle Couch
  • Gaynor Lee
  • Ian Flaherty
  • Katherine Kenny
  • Kate Johnston-Ataata
  • Olivia King
  • Fiona Navilly
  • Robert Webb
  • Kerryn Drysdale
  • Carmel Hobbs
  • Christy Arnott
  • Ann Lawless
  • Rebekah Lisciandro
  • Georgie Harwood
  • Aimee Simpson
  • Caroline Lyall
  • Emilee Gilbert
  • Alex Workman
  • Kaete Walker
  • Anthony Smith
  • fiona brown
  • Rowena Forsyth
  • Renata Kokanovic
  • Giverney Ainscough
  • Mandy Hughes
  • Fiona McLachlan
  • Meg Polacsek
  • Michelle Walter
  • Kristen Stevens
  • Tony Williams
  • Suzanna Eddyono
  • Virginie Roseberg
  • Tina Fleming
  • Kathy Anderson
  • Isaac Eyalama
  • Brydan Lenne
  • Rachael De Haas
  • nicole peel
  • Adrienne Byrt
  • Jodie Bruning
  • Bree Allingham-MacLaren
  • Rachel Rowe
  • Tamara Browne
  • Brooke Maria Hollingshead
  • Tim Barlott
  • Gupteswar Patel
  • Mark Sherry