Tea Party protest against President Obama's healthcare reforms

The fierce opposition to President Obama’s healthcare policy in the US and the challenges facing health reformists in post-communist Europe are to be examined at the University of Cambridge.

Healthcare reform has become the major political issue of our time.

Dr Peggy Watson

A two-day conference, organised by Cambridge’s Dr Peggy Watson, takes place this Friday and Saturday at CRASSH (Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities).

Featuring speakers from the UK, USA and China – as well as experts across a range of disciplines including anthropology, area studies, sociology, geography and public health - Dr Watson believes the conference will facilitate new exchanges on previously distinct areas of research.

She said: “Healthcare reform has become the major political issue of our time. In the UK, we have seen government reform initiatives rethought as a result of a swell of public criticism. We are extremely fortunate in having Allyson Pollock, one of the main public figures commenting on, and critical of, recent health reforms, delivering the keynote lecture.

“For anyone who is interested in health care reform issues, this is a great opportunity to hear her. A professor at the University of London, she has advised government on an ad-hoc basis. We also have Wendell Potter from the US, from the Center of Media and Democracy, who gave advice to Obama on the Insurance industry prior to the passage of the PPACA (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act).”

Hailed as potentially the most significant change in US social legislation since the New Deal, the level of contention and outrage that surrounded Obama’s healthcare plans took many by surprise.

However, the US is not the only country where controversial reforms face fierce opposition. Post-socialist countries have seen dramatic and problematic changes, too. In Europe, the streets of Vilnius, Riga and Sofia, have all seen violent protests following spending cuts. Meanwhile, China’s healthcare has also been radically redefined as the country pursues a place among the world’s richest nations.

Added Dr Watson: “The conference brings together the US, China, and post-communist Europe with the aim of gaining insight into the different processes of change when countries with radically different starting points move towards a globally shared healthcare framework. We’ll be confronting the interpretations and experiences of patients, professionals and politicians.”

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