Social Theory & Health

, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 407–429 | Cite as

Beyond ubiquity: Unravelling medicalisation within the frame of health insurance and health-policy making

  • Sarah Van den Bogaert
  • Ricardo A. Ayala
  • Piet Bracke
Original Article


Besides being extensively studied by health sociologists, medicalisation has also become a term that frequently appears in mainstream discourses on health and illness. Recently, scholars started to acknowledge a greater complexity within medicalisation. This article is situated within this research tradition and draws on three recurring critiques on the validity of medicalisation; critique on the construct validity, internal validity and external validity. By examining the interests and network of health-policy stakeholders, this article attempts to unravel different mechanisms of medicalisation and demedicalisation within a social health insurance system. The empirical data for this article derive from 30 elite interviews with key informants from 18 organisations in Belgium. Key representatives of these organisations provided us with in-depth information about their political intentions and interests. This study provides empirical evidence that both medicalisation and demedicalisation are different processes that can occur simultaneously. Furthermore, in order to facilitate studies on medicalisation in an institutional context, this article proposes some indicators for medicalisation and demedicalisation.


medicalisation demedicalisation stakeholders health-policy making healthcare systems social welfare 



We are grateful to the organisations that participated in this study, especially to all the anonymous representatives who acted openly and disinterestedly as interviewees. For helping us to have access to these organisations, we have Marc Bogaert to thank. We are also grateful to the Special Research Fund (BOF) of Ghent University for providing funding for the research on which this article is based, the members of the Health, Media & Society research centre, and special thanks go to our colleague, Jana Declercq, for linguistic support and advice.


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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sarah Van den Bogaert
    • 1
  • Ricardo A. Ayala
    • 1
  • Piet Bracke
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of SociologyGhent UniversityGhentBelgium

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