John-Arne Skolbekken

Associate Professor, Department of Social Work and Health Science
Norwegian University of Science and Technology
CSTMS Research Unit: Berkeley Program in Science and Technology Studies, PMH, CSTMS
Affiliation period: January 2013 - June 2013
Degrees Cand.psychol :: University of Oslo
PhD :: Norwegian University of Science and Technology

Research Areas

The working title for my present research is ‘Osteoporosis – a case of medical relativism?’ It is a study of osteoporosis through the construction of the Fracture Risk Assessment Tool (FRAX) which was launched in 2008. This tool has been designed to identify individuals believed to be in need of fracture preventing medicine. Supported by the WHO FRAX is supposed to be a tool applicable all around the world. A significant feature of the diagnosis of osteoporosis in modern medicine is that the values assigned to an individual are relative to the values found in a reference population. In FRAX a number of reference populations are applied, based on nationality, race and ethnicity as well as a range of so-called clinical risk factors (CRF).

For the past few decades bone mineral density (BMD) has been defined as the principal risk factor for osteoporosis. BMD-measurements have thus been the technology that has made the modern definition of osteoporosis as a risk factor for osteoporotic fractures possible. Recent publications are, however, pointing in the direction of making these measurements redundant, as fracture predictions are now based on CRFs. To scrutinize this development searching to describe ‘the rise and fall of BMD as the defining risk factor for osteoporosis’ is thus the aim of the second part of my research.

A third goal of my stay in Berkeley is to get in contact with other researchers interested in making comparative studies in the areas described as medicalization/biomedicalization. Several American scholars (Conrad, Clarke et al., and Epstein) have studied these phenomena in the US, and time seems ripe for taking this research to other geographical arenas as well.

Selected Publications

Solbjør, M., Skolbekken, J-A., Sætnan, A.R., Hagen, A.I. & Forsmo, S. (2012). Could screening participation bias symptom interpretation? An interview study on women’s interpretations of and responses to cancer symptoms between mammography screening rounds. BMJ Open ;2,e001508. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2012-001508

Solbjør, M., Skolbekken, J-A., Sætnan, A.R., Hagen, A.I. & Forsmo, S. (2012). Mammography screening and trust: the case of interval breast cancer. Social Science & Medicine, 75, 1746-1752.

Skolbekken, J-A., Østerlie, W. & Forsmo, S. (2012) Risk categorization through standard deviations – the challenge of bone density measurements. A focus-group study among women attending the Nord-Trøndelag Health Study (HUNT). Health, Risk & Society, 14(2), 191-206.

Solbjør, M., Forsmo, S., Skolbekken, J-A. & Sætnan, A.R. (2011). Experiences of recall after mammography screening – a qualitative study. Health Care for Women International, 32(11), 1009-1027.

Santora, L. & Skolbekken, J-A. (2011). From brittle bones to standard deviations – the historical development of osteoporosis in the late 20th century. Science Technology & Human Values, 36, 497-521.

Skolbekken, J-A., Østerlie, W. & Forsmo, S. (2008). Brittle bones, pain and fractures - Lay constructions of osteoporosis among Norwegian women attending the Nord-Trøndelag Health Study (HUNT). Social Science & Medicine, 66, 2562-2572.

Skolbekken, J-A. (1998). Communicating the risk reduction achieved by cholesterol reducing drugs. BMJ, 316, 1956-1958.

Skolbekken J-A. (1995). The Risk Epidemic in Medical Journals. Soc Sci Med, 40, 291-305.

last updated: June 13th, 2013