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Influenza : a study of contemporary medical politics

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dc.contributor.advisor Theodore A. Postol. en_US Doshi, Peter Nikolai en_US
dc.contributor.other Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Program in Science, Technology and Society. en_US 2012-03-16T16:05:08Z 2012-03-16T16:05:08Z 2011 en_US 2011 en_US
dc.description Thesis (Ph. D. in History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology and Society (HASTS))--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Program in Science, Technology and Society, 2011. en_US
dc.description Cataloged from PDF version of thesis. en_US
dc.description Includes bibliographical references (p. 271-312). en_US
dc.description.abstract Over the past decade, the prevention and control of seasonal and pandemic influenza has grown to be one of the largest and most visible public health policies. This dissertation considers contemporary influenza policy as a case study in what I call medical politics, in which a disease that for most people is rather unremarkable has become the focus of intense (and costly) public health campaigns based on a shaky scientific basis. The dissertation seeks to explain how this could happen. The first two chapters show how influenza and its pandemics are marketed through an appeal to numerous scientific claims. Drawing on governmental marketing materials, statements by officials, and policy documents, I try to let officials speak for themselves and, as much as possible, refrain from analysis. Chapter 3 tells the story of the 2009 novel influenza H1N1 outbreak, showing how official understandings about influenza were called into question by an outbreak far milder than experts had predicted, and discusses investigations which highlighted the role of industry in shaping influenza policy. Chapter 4 analyzes official scientific claims regarding influenza, and argues that degree to which influenza is a serious public health problem is actually unclear. Furthermore, influenza vaccine effectiveness has been vastly overstated, predictive models of pandemic influenza are demonstrably flawed, and officials conflate true influenza with influenza-like illness (ILl), an often overlooked but critical distinction which allows officials to mislead the public into holding false assumptions about the potential benefits of influenza vaccine. Chapter 5 highlights the centrality of "virus-centric thinking" and the ethic of "saving lives" in public health practice as important factors that help explain how such a situation can exist and persist in light of the evidence. Chapter 6 addresses the policy implications of the dissertation's findings. en_US
dc.description.statementofresponsibility by Peter N. Doshi. en_US
dc.format.extent 312 p. en_US
dc.language.iso eng en_US
dc.publisher Massachusetts Institute of Technology en_US
dc.rights M.I.T. theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from this source for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without written permission. See provided URL for inquiries about permission. en_US
dc.rights.uri en_US
dc.subject Program in Science, Technology and Society. en_US
dc.title Influenza : a study of contemporary medical politics en_US
dc.title.alternative Study of contemporary medical politics en_US
dc.type Thesis en_US History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology and Society (HASTS en_US
dc.contributor.department Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Program in Science, Technology and Society. en_US
dc.identifier.oclc 778073688 en_US

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