Using Ethnography to Understand Patients’ Perspectives on Medication Use: The Case of Hypercholesterolemia and Statins

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Objectives: By taking part in an interdisciplinary research project, LIFESTAT, I investigate how hypercholesterolemia and statins impact the Danish population aged 40-80. The research aims to introduce new social, cultural and political perspectives of statin use by examining how risk-perception, use of health technologies and health literacy influence the everyday life of people with elevated cholesterol. As a qualified pharmacist doing an anthropological PhD I find myself in an interprofessional position conducting research on the borderline between medical anthropology and social pharmacy. Such interdisciplinary research may be influenced by different socialization processes shaped by professions and affecting research paradigms and ideologies. However, stepping into a new field opens up new aspects of data collection and knowledge production in terms of method and theories. This paper aims to discuss how an ethnographic approach to medicine use may help gaining new knowledge in the field of social pharmacy.

Methods: The study is inspired by the methodology of Following the Technology as introduced in Science and Technology Studies (e.g. Mol 2000) – that is by observing the real-time activities related to the phenomenon of interest, in this case hypercholesterolemia and statins. The phenomenon is followed in various locations and practices to which it travels. Thus, by using an ethnographic approach I seek to reconstruct an understanding of related events and practices of the people involved. The fieldwork is conducted throughout 2014 and is entrenched in the lay perspective of statin use. Methods include participant observation, interviews and focus groups.

Results: Presently the study is a “work in progress”, however, preliminary findings will be presented at the conference.

Conclusion: Taking an ethnographic approach to the investigation of patients’ perspective on statin use brings to the surface new knowledge and theories related to the social and cultural aspects of management of chronic disease and preventive medicine.
Original languageEnglish
JournalResearch in Social and Administrative Pharmacy
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)e60-e61
Publication statusPublished - 17 Sep 2014

ID: 213035378