Sociologists can claim new ground in the pursuit of research that broadens understanding of biomedicine and helps track the cause of disease. Reorienting interpretive methods to emphasize social factors exposes an unrecognized path to optimizing overall public health.
The major health surveys have failed to take advantage of significant opportunities to understand the social aspect of public health. With historical examples and analysis of specific trends in population health, this article relates social factors to the diffusion of biomedical knowledge and technology.
The author echoes past calls for a fusing of epidemiology and sociology, but emphasizes sociological concepts. A social shaping approach clears the way for evaluating the interplay of social factors, biomedicine and disease.