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Health, Knowledge and Expertise

This project analyzes the criticism of biomedicine related to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) and vaccine-criticism in Finland. We combine sociological and historical perspectives, responding to the social and political need to understand these phenomena and the criticism of biomedical expertise in general as processes that are deeply historical and cultural.

We examine:

  • Why do people use CAM treatments or have critical attitudes towards vaccination?
  • What kinds of discussions and conflicts related to CAM treatments and vaccines are present within the biomedical field?
  • What kind of knowledges are mobilized in criticism of biomedicine both within the medical community and outside of it?
  • How has the critique of biomedicine related to CAM treatments and vaccines changed and developed in Finland since the early 1900s?

The project is a collaboration of the Department of Social Research, University of Turku, and the Research Centre for Knowledge, Science, Technology and Innovations Studies, Tampere University. It is funded by Emil Aaltonen Foundation.

The project is led by:

Johanna Nurmi                                Pia Vuolanto
Dr. soc. sci.                                              Dr. soc. sci., docent
johnurm(a)                                   pia.Vuolanto(a)
tel. +358 29 450 3081                           tel. +358 50 3186240

Project members:

Suvi Rytty                                          Tiina Väänänen
M.A.                                                         M. Health Sc.
suvi.rytty(a)                                  tiina.a.vaananen(a)
tel. +358 500 764350


Brodin Danell Jenny-Ann, Danell Rikard, Vuolanto Pia. (2019). Scandinavian research on complementary and alternative medicine: A bibliometric study. Scandinavian Journal of Public Health.

Brosnan Caragh, Vuolanto Pia, Brodin Danell Jenny-Ann (eds.). (2018). Complementary and Alternative Medicine : Knowledge Production and Social Transformation. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan. download flyer

Vuolanto, P., Sorsa, M., Aarva, P., Helin, K. A review of Finnish CAM research. Sosiaalilääketieteellinen aikakauslehti – Journal of Social Medicine 2018: 55: 243–259.

This review article concerns Finnish research on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). The aim of the article is to analyse what kind of CAM research has been conducted in Finland and what has this research been targeted at. The data consist of 53 research articles and 12 PhD dissertations from years 1980-2014. The data was drawn from Finnish and international databases. Content analysis was used as a research method. CAM research was conducted especially during the 1990s and at the beginning of the 2000s. Most usually the studies were done within universities or in collaboration with them. A majority

of publications dealt with CAM treatments as a whole and did not separate between different modalities. The studies considered herbal products, medicinal herbs, homeopathic and antroposophic medicines, diets and mind-body practices. Spiritual healing, acupuncture and reflexology were mentioned most often as mind-body practices.

We classified Finnish CAM research according to international classifications: 1) research on the impact and efficacy of CAM treatments, 2) research on the history and popular tradition of CAM treatments, 3) research on the prevalence and user groups of CAM treatments, 4) the attitudes and perceptions of health care personnel on CAM. We also found a fifth whole, although very little research was done on this in Finland: research on CAM professions, science studies and views of care. Most of the studies focused on the prevalence and the user types of CAM. According to these studies, one third of Finnish

adults had used or tried some CAM treatments. Other research foci were the effects of CAM, the attitudes of healthcare personnel towards CAM and the history of CAM treatments. The effects of traditional manipulation were analysed most among studies of the impact of CAM treatments. The attitudes of medical practitioners and nurses toward CAM were mixed.

Keywords: complementary and alternative medicine, CAM, CAM research, content analysis, science studies