Share This Article:

Outside the Cage: Exploring Everyday Interactions between Government Workers and Residents in a Place-Based Health Initiative

Full-Text HTML Download Download as PDF (Size:716KB) PP. 61-68
DOI: 10.4236/aasoci.2013.31008    2,896 Downloads   4,301 Views  


This paper presents an ethnographic case study of the daily lived experience of place by government health and community workers in a place-based chronic disease initiative (PBI) located in a disadvantaged peri-urban area in Australia. The case study focused on the place at which the PBI staff members interfaced with the community informally as opposed to the deliberate interactions described in the formal community engagement strategy. Subtle social phenomena, such as social positioning and the contrasting cultures of bureaucracy and community, generated outcomes that were the antithesis of those sought by the PBI. If these characteristics of place are not attended to during the development of PBIs, we risk recreating existing social divides and jeopardizing the potential of these initiatives to build community capacity. This case study provides an important conceptual-theoretical understanding of the place-based approach, which can augment existing empirical studies of place. The findings are also relevant for those who are exploring the physical co-location of diverse professional groups in socially disadvantaged neighbourhoods. It also exposes the inherent complexity of place and the futility of poorly designed bureaucratic responses.

Cite this paper

Sunderland, N. (2013). Outside the Cage: Exploring Everyday Interactions between Government Workers and Residents in a Place-Based Health Initiative. Advances in Applied Sociology, 3, 61-68. doi: 10.4236/aasoci.2013.31008.


[1] Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) (2006). Census of population and housing. Australian Bureau of Statistics.
[2] Baum, F., & Palmer, C. (2002). “Opportunity structures”: Urban landscape, social capital and health promotion in Australia. Health Promotion International, 17, 351-361. doi:10.1093/heapro/17.4.351
[3] Bourdieu, P. (1990). The logic of practice. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
[4] Bradford, N. (2005). Place-based public policy: Towards a new urban and community agenda for Canada research. Ottawa, ON: Canadian Policy Research Networks.
[5] Broadhead, R. S., & Fox, K. J. (1990). Takin’ it to the streets: AIDS outreach as ethnography. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 19, 322-348. doi:10.1177/089124190019003004
[6] Brodsky, A. E. (1996). Resilient single mothers in risky neighborhoods: Negative psychological sense of community. Journal of Community Psychology, 24, 347-363. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1520-6629(199610)24:4<347::AID-JCOP5>3.0.CO;2-R
[7] Burbank, V. K. (2011). An ethnography of stress: The social determinants of health in Aboriginal Australia (culture, mind and society series). New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.
[8] Carpiano, R. M., Kelly, B. C., Easterbrook, A., & Parson, J. T. (2011). Community and drug use among gay men: The role of neighborhoods and networks. Journal of Health & Social Behavior, 52, 74-90. doi:10.1177/0022146510395026
[9] Caughy, M. O., O’Campo, P. J., & Patterson, J. (2001). A brief observational measure for urban neighbourhoods. Health & Place, 7, 225- 236. doi:10.1016/S1353-8292(01)00012-0
[10] Cohen, D., Spear, S., Scribner, R., Kissinger, P., Mason, K., & Wildgen, J. (2000). Broken windows and the risk of gonorrhoea. American Journal of Public Health, 90, 230-236. doi:10.2105/AJPH.90.2.230
[11] Commission on Social Determinants of Health (CSDH) (2008). Closing the gap in a generation: Health equity through action on the social determinants of health. Final Report of the Commission on the Social Determinants of Health. Geneva: World Health Organization.
[12] Craddock, S. (2000). Disease, social identity and risk: Rethinking the geography of AIDS. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 25, 153-168. doi:10.1111/j.0020-2754.2000.00153.x
[13] Dennis Jr., S. F., Gaulocher, S., Carpiano, R. M., & Brown, D. (2009). Participatory photo mapping (PPM): Exploring an integrated method for health and place research with young people. Health & Place, 15, 466-473. doi:10.1016/j.healthplace.2008.08.004
[14] Farmer, J., Munoz, S. A., & Threlkeld, G. (2012). Theory in rural health. Australian Journal of Rural Health, 20, 185-189. doi:10.1111/j.1440-1584.2012.01286.x
[15] Goffman, E. (1959). Presentation of self in everyday life. New York, NY: Doubleday Anchor Books.
[16] Gudes, O., Kendall, E., Yigitcanlar, T., Pathak, V., & Baum, S. (2010). Rethinking health planning: A framework for organising information to underpin collaborative health planning. Health Information Management Journal, 39, 18-29.
[17] Hochschild Jr., T. R. (2010). “Our club”: Place-work and the negotiation of collective belongingness. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 39, 619-645. doi:10.1177/0891241610378857
[18] Introna, L. D. (2002). The (im)possibility of ethics in the information age. Information and Organisation, 12, 71-84. doi:10.1016/S1471-7727(01)00008-2
[19] Introna, L. D. (2001). Virtuality and morality: On (not) being disturbed by the other. Philosophy in the Contemporary World, 8, 11-19.
[20] Knoblauch, H., Baer, A., Laurier, E., Petschke, S., & Schnettler, B. (2008). Visual analysis. New developments in the interpretative analysis of video and photography. Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 9.
[21] Levinas, E. (1998/1981). Otherwise than being: Or beyond essence. Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press.
[22] Lindemann, K. (2007). The impact of objective characteristics on subjective social position. TRAMES Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences, 11, 54-68.
[23] McHoul, A. (2009). What are we doing when we analyse conversation? Australian Journal of Communication, 36, 15-21.
[24] Marmot, M. G., Allen, J., Goldblatt, P., Boyce, T., McNeish, D., Grady, M., & Geddes, I. (2010). Fair society, healthy lives. Strategic review of health inequalities in England post-2010. London: University College London.
[25] Massey, D. B. (2005). For space. London: SAGE.
[26] Massey, D. B. (1999). Space, place, and gender. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
[27] Martin, J. (2002). Organisational culture: Mapping the terrain. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
[28] Moore, D. (2009). Workers, “clients” and the struggle over needs: Understanding encounters between service providers and injecting drug users in an Australian city. Social Science & Medicine, 68, 1161- 1168. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2008.12.015
[29] Parry, J., Mathers, J., Laburn-Peart, C., Orford, J., & Dalton, S. (2007). Improving health in deprived communities: What can residents teach us? Critical Public Health, 17, 123-136. doi:10.1080/09581590601045253
[30] Pink, S. (2007a). Doing visual ethnography: Images, media and representation in research (2nd ed.). The Hague: Mouton.
[31] Pink, S. (2007b). Sensing cittàslow: Slow living and the constitution of the sensory city. Sense and Society, 2, 59-77. doi:10.2752/174589207779997027
[32] Raudenbush, S. W., & Sampson, R. J. (1999). Ecometrics: Toward a science of assessment ecological settings, with application to the systematic social observation of neighborhoods. Sociological Methodology, 29, 1-41. doi:10.1111/0081-1750.00059
[33] Ryan, G. W., & Bernard, H. R. (2003). Techniques to identify themes. Field Methods, 15, 85-109. doi:10.1177/1525822X02239569
[34] Schulz, A. J., & Lempert, L. B. (2004). Being part of the world: Detroit women’s perceptions of health and the social environment. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 33, 437-465. doi:10.1177/0891241604265979
[35] Schulz, A., & Northridge, M. E. (2004). Social determinants of health: Implications for environmental health promotion. Health Education & Behavior, 31, 455-471. doi:10.1177/1090198104265598
[36] Scribner, J. P., Cockrell, K. S., Cockrell, D. H., & Valentine, J. W. (1999). Creating professional communities in schools through organizational learning: An evaluation of a school improvement process. Educational Administration Quarterly, 35, 130-160. doi:10.1177/0013161X99351007
[37] Silverstone, R. (2003). Proper distance: Towards an ethics for cyberspace. In G. Liestol, A. Morrison, & T. Rasmussen (Eds.), Digital media revisited: Theoretical and conceptual innovations in digital domains (pp. 469-490). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
[38] Singh-Manoux, A., & Marmot, M. (2005). Role of socialization in explaining social inequalities in health. Social Science & Medicine, 60, 2129-2133. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2004.08.070
[39] Snow, D. A., Morrill, C., & Anderson, L. (2003). Elaborating analytic ethnography: Linking fieldwork and theory. Ethnography, 4, 181- 200. doi:10.1177/14661381030042002
[40] Sunderland, N., Bristed, H., Gudes, O., Boddy, J., & Da Silva, M. (2012). What does it feel like to live here? Exploring sensory ethnography as a methodology for investigating social determinants of health. Health & Place, 18, 1056-1067. doi:10.1016/j.healthplace.2012.05.007
[41] Tuan, Y. (2005/1977). Space and place: The perspective of experience. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
[42] Weyers, S., Dragano, N., Richter, M., & Bosma, H. (2010). How does socio economic position link to health behaviour? Sociological pathways and perspectives for health promotion. Global Health Promotion, 17, 25-33.

comments powered by Disqus

Copyright © 2018 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.