Seminar with Tiago Moreira: Standards and measurements in health care

Venue: Center for Sundhed og Samfund (CSS), Øster Farimagsgade 5A, room 5.0.22

Time: June 3rd 2015 15.00 – 17.00

Host: Centre for Medical Science and Technology Studies  (MEST)


One of the key achievements of Science and Technology Studies in the past two decades has been its ability to embed issues of standardisation and measurement in social sciences’ debates and problematic . Nowhere is this more so than in the social studies of medicine, where a growing body of research attends to the question of how knowledge making, measurement and standardisation shape health care practices and institutions. In this lecture, I outline how different theoretical approaches contributed to the emergence of a focus that emphasises contingency, difference, multiplicity, and fluidity in understanding the role of standards and measurements in health care.  Drawing on the case of self-rated health, a widely used measure of health in clinical, audit and research settings, I argue that attention to those generative processes enables the exploration of the complex sociotechnical dynamic of standards. I chart the trajectory of self-rated health from its inception within 1950s medical sociology, to its establishment as a ‘technology of patient experience’ at the turn of the 1990s, to contemporary controversies around its power as a predictor of mortality. I suggest that the way in which we tell the story of measurements such as self-rated health matters to the politics of standards and to how we might further deploy STS in contemporary health care. 

Tiago Moreira is Reader in the School of Applied Social Sciences at the University of Durham. His research has been devoted to understanding the role of knowledge, evidence and standardised tools in the organisation of health care and governance of biomedicine. He is the author of The Transformation of Contemporary Health Care: the Market, the Laboratory and the Forum (Routledge).