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Lecture 14

Health Sciences 1002A/B Lecture Notes - Lecture 14: Structural Violence, Maternal Death, Social Forces

Health Sciences
Course Code
HS 1002A/B
Jessica Polzer

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Monday, November 17, 2014
Social Suffering and Structural Violence
Human Rights as a Framework for Health
Key Concepts
Social Suffering
Structural Violence
Constrained Agency
Preferential option for the poor
Multi-axial Model of Suffering
Moral Distress
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Core Notions of Human Rights
Human rights approach to health
Paul Farmer-wrote the article assigned for this class
Physician and anthropologist
Pioneered the treatment of multi drug resistant (MDR) tuberculosis and HIV in Haiti
Community-based approach to h-care
Founding director of Partners in Health (PIH)
Hôpital Universitaire de Mirebalais
“By what mechanisms do social forces ranging from poverty to racism become
embodied as individual experience?”
‘Preferential Option for the Poor
Term stems from Catholic liberation theology
Guiding principles:
-Distributive justice: fair distribution of resources
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find more resources at

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Monday, November 17, 2014
-Pragmatic solidarity: solidarity(to make a common cause with those in need) and
advocate for goods and services to help reduce unjust suffering, help provide
goods and services to help elevate their suffering
Role of health care workers and researchers
-Understanding and action
-Not just experts and healers, also advocates: to act as an advocate
-Community-based approach to h-care
Structural Violence
A form of violence which corresponds with the systematic ways in which social
structures and/or institutions kill people slowly by preventing them from meeting their
basic human needs
causes conflict and resistance because the people are made to suffer under structural
violence have everything to gain but nothing to lose by standing up for their rights
structural violence causes suffering
assault against human dignity
people will experience the world in a different way, experience untimely death and
Social Suffering
an extreme form of suffering that is experienced by groups or entire populations of
people who experience a violation of basic human rights
What do those who experience social suffering? they occupy the bottom economic run
on a ladder in very unequal societies, poverty for Farmer is one of the primary drivers
of suffering
Caused by: disease, untimely death (premature death)
Need stories to understand and explain and make the link of social suffer:
But the experience of suffering […] is not effectively conveyed by statistics or
graphs. (dont tell us what it is like to experience suffering) In fact, the suffering
of the world’s poor intrudes only rarely into the consciousness of the affluent
[…] This is true even when spectacular human rights violations are at issue …
(Farmer, 2004, p. 31)
find more resources at
find more resources at
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