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Addressing the Polypharmacy Challenge in Older People

The Polypharmacy Challenge Blog

New PhD research addressing the multimorbidity challenge in working-age adults

Esca van Blarikom recently joined the APOLLO-MM team in her role as NIHR ARC North Thames funded PhD candidate. In this blog post, Esca sets out why her project exploring working-age adults' experience of living with co-existing physical and mental health conditions is so necessary.

I was drawn to this PhD because I loved the idea of working in a multidisciplinary team. Also, as a medical anthropologist, I am interested in studying the dynamics of health inequities, and the intersections of social, psychological, and physical vulnerabilities. ‘Multimorbidity’ is considered a major health challenge around the globe today, but it is a fuzzy concept; not so much indicating a pathological problem ‘out there’, but rather pointing out challenges in the organisation of care. Ethnography as a method lends itself particularly well for studying ‘messiness’ and complexity and unpacking taking-for-granted concepts carrying not-so-taken-for-granted meanings, which is why I am excited to work on the theme of ‘multimorbidity’.

Living with Polypharmacy - part 2

The second session of our Living with Polypharmacy panel at the Chronic Living: quality, vitality and health in the 21st Century conference continued with presentations using a variety of methods to make the work of polypharmacy visible.

I presented data from Video Reflexive Ethnography (VRE) workshops with GPs to show a hidden side of medicines talk focusing on the emotions primary care staff feel when faced with stopping or starting a patient's medicines. The VRE method invites professionals to view and reflect on video clips of their practice. One emotion featured heavily in professional talk: fear. Particular drugs were entangled with fear concerning how the drug works, harmful side effects it may cause, the patient’s history with the drug, the clinician’s past encounters with the drug, and future prescribing trends which reach media and public attention. The entanglement of emotional work in prescribing raises questions about interventions to reduce polypharmacy which rely solely on one kind of knowledge: scientific evidence and clinical safety.


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