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I am a wife, mother, instructor and PhD student of Health and Interpersonal Communication. My research is located at the intersection of health, identity and discourse and is informed by my background in Organizational Communication with an overall objective of addressing inequities in healthcare access across populations by examining communicative processes that contribute to institutionalized inequities. My hope is to contribute to an understanding of the relationship between micro/macro level discourses within the healthcare system to improve patient access to quality care across populations. This will include research aimed at improving communication among medical providers, between medical providers and patients, between healthcare institutions, and between health institutions and individuals.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Challenging Economic Privilege

I really don't like to think about economics. It's not a subject that ignites any passion in my thinking. I really just don't get jazzed up about it all. At least not as it stands in isolation as a subject of study. However, when you begin to see how economics plays into varying degrees of access to and preference for specific products, services and the creation of perceived needs and wants...it becomes a significantly more interesting area of study. When you consider the way in which economics interplays with our communicative tendencies, choices and ultimately, patterns, in the shaping of our reality, it's easy to see that this area of study is integral to understanding our world. Not, however, in isolation. It's an area of study that, while quite powerful when considered alongside other areas of study, given the current bias toward the privileging of and, in many cases, the adoption of economics as the one viable perspective from which to see the world, it serves to limit insight into our world. In fact, when it is the only consideration in contemplating our world, it serves to dangerously limit our perspective and ultimately, serves to perpetuate inequities in voice and access to resources.

 When we see the world from a purely economic perspective and prioritize this over other, what could be, complementary perspectives, we rationalize everything based on monetary decisions alone--clearly privileging those that are already deemed successful within this type of rationality. We use this type of thinking to reinforce established power differentials in our world and we enable the continued silencing of voices that are important to a clear, full understanding of our world--and we rationalize this in the name of the almighty dollar. Does this mean we aren't willing to help those in need? Of course not--we're all human, and most of us want to reach out and lend a hand to those in need. We're good people with good hearts and we want to make a difference in our world. This is not a simple question of good and bad. It's a question of perspective and of our willingness to challenge our own worldview in an effort toward deep level change instead of providing band aids here and there.

 To give ourselves a shot at deep level social change, we need to reign in our bias toward economic rationality and recognize this bias as limiting rather than empowering. We need to recognize when we use this prevailing bias in our worldview to justify what choices are available and what choices we fail to see. We need to expand our worldview to include economics as one of many equal perspectives as we shape our perspective on the world. We need to educate ourselves beyond economic rationality. We need to better understand sociological perspectives, philosophical perspectives, psychological perspectives, communicative perspectives...we need to assign equal valence to these perspectives, recognizing the value inherent in what they expose for us and recognizing the limitations, or blind spots, in each perspective. We then must combine these perspectives in shaping our worldview---and refrain from privileging one perspective over another in our own perspectives, in our discussions and in our policy making--we need to let each perspective work in concert to become something more than what it is individually--let them come together to open our eyes and our minds to something more inclusive than what our current perspective is. How do we accomplish this? Through our communication with one another. We work with each other, valuing and respecting each perspective so that we can learn from one another and expand our perspectives. We use this new understanding of economics as but one of several vantage points to challenge ourselves and each other to identify new choices and perspectives that could be viable where we would have previously glossed over them or failed to see them in a purely economic rationality. We use this newly created freedom to bring this newly expanded perspective to the table in our discussions with one another as we shape a reality for ourselves and for each other that includes all of these perspectives as equal partners in our collective frame of reference.

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