American Sociological Association

Like a Fish out of Water: Managing Chronic Pain in the Urban Safety Net

The subjective nature of pain has always rendered it a point of entry for power and corresponding stratifying processes within biomedicine. The opioid crisis has further exacerbated these challenges by increasing the stakes of prescribing decisions for providers, which in turn has resulted in greater treatment disparities. Using the theoretical frame of cultural health capital (CHC) to account for these disparities in pain management as they unfold at both the macro- and the microlevel, we present findings from an interdisciplinary study of two complex care management programs in urban safety-net hospitals that serve high-utilizing patients. CHC, which considers the ways in which patient–provider interactions reflect and often reinforce broader social inequities, allows for a consideration of power as it circulates through and beyond the patient–provider encounter. Within the current sociopolitical era of pain management, attention must be paid to the stratifying processes that structure how suffering is addressed.

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Sara Rubin, Nancy Burke, Meredith Van Natta, Irene Yen, and Janet K. Shim.





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