774.3 The use of traditional medicine and complementary and alternative medicine by type 2 diabetes patients as a marker of social distinction in Brazil

Saturday, August 4, 2012: 4:55 PM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Cristiane SPADACIO , Faculty of Health Sciences, PhD Candidate, Campinas, Brazil
Nelson BARROS , Faculty of Health Sciences, Professor, Campinas, Brazil
Drawing on Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of cultural capital and social distinction, this paper will analyse patterns of social differentiation and cultural distinction in Brazil’s health care system. The paper is based on research which seeks to understand the extent to which the use of Traditional Medicine (TM) and Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) by type 2 diabetes patients is related to social distinction. The data come from in depth interviews conducted with eighty type 2 diabetes patients in public (40) and private (40) diabetes clinics in Brazil. Interview transcripts were analysed to explore how patients’ social class location shaped their perceptions of heterodox treatments. It was found that the choice of heterodox treatments appears to be related to social class. For instance, middle and upper class patients tend to choose TM and CAM mainly within the private health service while working class patients tend to use TM within the public health service. It will be argued that class differences in the use of TM and CAM can be analysed as markers of social distinction in Brazil. According to Bourdieu’s theory of class distinction, taste (in this case, choices of TM/CAM treatments) is one of the key signifiers and elements of social identity. This research attempts to contribute to the much needed understanding of the relationship between cultural practices and social class position in medical sociology.