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Time to care: why the humanities and the social sciences belong in the science of health
  1. Brendan Clarke1,
  2. Virginia Ghiara2,
  3. Federica Russo3
  1. 1Department of Science & Technology Studies, University College London, London, United Kingdom
  2. 2Department of Philosophy, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, UK
  3. 3Department of Philosophy, Universiteit van Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to Dr Federica Russo; federica.russo{at}


Health is more than the absence of disease. It is also more than a biological phenomenon. It is inherently social, psychological, cultural and historical. While this has been recognised by major health actors for decades, open questions remain as to how to build systems that reflect the complexity of health, disease and sickness, and in a context that is increasingly technologised. We argue that an urgent change of approach is necessary. Methods and concepts from the humanities and social science must be embedded in the concepts and methods of the health sciences if we are to promote sustainable interventions capable of engaging with the recognised complexity of health, disease and sickness. Our vision is one of radical interdisciplinarity, integrating aspects of biological, psychological, social and humanities approaches across areas of urgent health need. Radical interdisciplinarity, we argue, entails the practical, methodological and conceptual integration of these approaches to health.

  • medical humanities
  • sociology of health
  • prevention
  • interdisciplinarity

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Unported (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to copy, redistribute, remix, transform and build upon this work for any purpose, provided the original work is properly cited, a link to the licence is given, and indication of whether changes were made. See:

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  • Contributors BC, VG and FR drafted a full text on the basis of brain writing sessions which all signatories of this communication article took part in during the workshop 'Healthy People: How the Medical Humanities and the Health Sciences Study the Complexity of Health,' held in Leiden between 29 October and 1 November 2018.

  • Funding This study received funding from the NIAS-Lorentz Center, University of Amsterdam and AMC, University of Bonn and University College London that made possible the organisation of the workshop 'Healthy People: How the Medical Humanities and the Health Sciences Study the Complexity of Health.'

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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