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Centre for Health Economics and Policy Analysis


Seminar to examine institutional ethnography in health care research

07 May 2009

The use of institutional ethnography to understand how health care disparities are produced will be explored at the CHEPA Monthly seminar on May 20.

Christina Sinding, associate professor in the School of Social Work and in the Department of Health, Aging and Society at McMaster University, will discuss a research paper that describes institutional ethnography (IE), a sociological method of inquiry created to explore the social relations that structure people's encounters with public institutions.

Questions of health care access and equity are often examined in quantitative studies that describe patterns of service utilization. Such studies, while obviously vital, often provide little information about how health care services come to be distributed. Similarly, much qualitative research with marginalized people – while offering important textured accounts of health care experiences – often does not adequately link troubling experiences to broader features of health systems.

In the seminar entitled Qualitative Research on Health Care Disparities: Contributions from Institutional Ethnography, Sinding will draw on earlier research and an ongoing study in cancer care. She will examine how attending to ‘work’ (a key analytic tool in IE) may allow qualitative researchers to discern how disparities emerge from the routine organization of care.

IE has been developed over the past 25 years, and is used by researchers in social sciences, education, human services and policy research as a method for mapping the relations within and beyond an institution that co-ordinates people's activities.

Sinding has a Master’s degree in social welfare policy from McMaster, and a PhD in social science and health from the University of Toronto. Her research focuses on marginalized women's health and health care, and community-based cancer activism, care and support. Her current study, with an interdisciplinary team, extends her focus on equity in health and social care systems by considering patterns in access to cancer care and support by socioeconomic status, age and race.

The seminar will take place in HSC-1J8 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. All are welcome to attend.

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