Negotiating the boundary between medicine and consumer culture: Online marketing of nutrigenetic tests

Saukko, Paula M and Reed, Matt and Britten, Nicky and Hogarth, Stuart (2010) Negotiating the boundary between medicine and consumer culture: Online marketing of nutrigenetic tests. Social Science and Medicine, 70 (5). pp. 744-753. ISSN 0277-9536

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Abstract

Genomics researchers and policy makers have accused nutrigenetic testing companies-which provide DNA-based nutritional advice online-of misleading the public. The UK and USA regulation of the tests has hinged on whether they are classed as "medical" devices, and alternative regulatory categories for "lifestlyle" and less-serious genetic tests have been proposed. This article presents the findings of a qualitative thematic analysis of the webpages of nine nutrigenetic testing companies. We argue that the companies, mirroring and negotiating the regulatory debates, were creating a new social space for products between medicine and consumer culture. This space was articulated through three themes: (i) how "genes" and tests were framed, (ii) how the individual was imagined vis a vis health information, and (iii) the advice and treatments offered. The themes mapped onto four frames or models for genetic testing: (i) clinical genetics, (ii) medicine, (iii) intermediate, and (iv) lifestyle. We suggest that the genomics researchers and policy makers appeared to perform what Gieryn (Gieryn, T.F (1983). Boundary-work and the demarcation of science from non-science: strains and interests in professional ideologies of scientists. American Sociological Review. 48, 781-795.) has termed "boundary work", i.e., to delegitimize the tests as outside proper medicine and science. Yet, they legitimated them, though in a different way, by defining them as lifestyle, and we contend that the transformation of the boundaries of science into a creation of such hybrid or compromise categories is symptomatic of current historical times. Social scientists studying medicine have referred to the emergence of "lifestyle" products. This article contributes to this literature by examining the historical, regulatory and marketing processes through which certain goods and services become defined this way

Item Type: Article
Article Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: REF2014 Submission. Author Keywords:Genetics; Science and technology studies; Boundary work; UK; USA; Nutrigenetics; Direct-to-consumer genetic testing KeyWords Plus:GENETIC TESTS; HEALTH; ILLNESS; BIRTH; WORK; UK
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
Q Science > Q Science (General)
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > Countryside and Community Research Institute
Research Priority Areas: Environmental Dynamics & Governance
Depositing User: Anne Pengelly
Date Deposited: 09 Apr 2014 14:26
Last Modified: 28 Nov 2016 17:02
URI: http://eprints.glos.ac.uk/id/eprint/468

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