Journal of Bioethical Inquiry

, Volume 13, Issue 2, pp 185–192 | Cite as

Fundamental Interventions: How Clinicians Can Address the Fundamental Causes of Disease

  • Adam D. Reich
  • Helena B. Hansen
  • Bruce G. Link
Symposium: Structural Competency


In order to enhance the “structural competency” of medicine—the capability of clinicians to address social and institutional determinants of their patients’ health—physicians need a theoretical lens to see how social conditions influence health and how they might address them. We consider one such theoretical lens, fundamental cause theory, and propose how it might contribute to a more structurally competent medical profession. We first describe fundamental cause theory and how it makes the social causes of disease and health visible. We then outline the sorts of “fundamental interventions” that physicians might make in order to address the fundamental causes.


Structural competency Fundamental cause theory Fundamental interventions Social determinants Population health 


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Copyright information

© Journal of Bioethical Inquiry Pty Ltd. 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Adam D. Reich
    • 1
  • Helena B. Hansen
    • 2
  • Bruce G. Link
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of SociologyColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Department of Anthropology and PsychiatryNew York UniversityNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.Department of SociologyUniversity of CaliforniaRiversideUSA

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